We try to emphasize on this blog how important it is that all of your answers be positive with each one carefully selected for being the best answer. Sometimes that becomes very difficult, especially when you are asked a question that directly relates to your own past behaviors. You do not want to lie, but the truth may easily cause you to lose out on the job. One such question is “Have you ever been disciplined for your behavior?”
Why They Are Asking
It should come as no surprise that employers want to know what they are getting into. This is a fairly straight forward question designed to find out if you have caused trouble at other workplaces. However, what this question is designed to find out is if you performed any egregious errors. Job interviewers are not legally allowed to ask you if you are an alcoholic. They are, however, allowed to ask you if you ever have been reprimanded at work, and hope you answer with “Yes, I showed up for work wasted.”
If you have not been disciplined, the answer should be fairly simple. “No, I have not.” No need to try to expand on the answer. If you have been disciplined, the answer becomes much more difficult. In the following cases, it is acceptable to say “No.”
- If you were “disciplined” for minor infractions, such as showing up to work late two days in a row, forgetting to turn off your computer, or getting caught at the beach when you called in sick. These are really not a big deal unless it was the cause of you losing your job and you do not plan on continuing it. Employers are not asking about these minor issues.
- If you were disciplined a long, long time ago at a job that is completely irrelevant to the job you are applying for (such as a job you held part time in high school), you should also confidently answer “no.” High school is high school. Unless that job is the only job you held, there is no reason to discuss the workplace transgressions you made during puberty.
Unfortunately, if you were laid off from your last employer because you were constantly doing drugs at work, or severely and recently disciplined because you got into a fist fight with a coworker, this answer becomes much more difficult. Your interviewer may call your previous employer and ask why you were laid off, and they may get an honest answer. Your best bet is to spin the answer to sound like less of a big deal.
- Drinking on the Job –
“For a short time I was showing up sluggish to work. Since then I have ensured that I am awake and active every day and ready to get my work started from the moment I get into the office.”
- Fist Fight with Coworker –
“I had an intense disagreement with a staff member that resulted in a loss of productivity. Since then I have taken new steps towards conflict resolution, including…”
These are just a few examples of how to spin your answer. You do not want to lie, but the truth may not be to your advantage, so look for a way to spin the question to seem like less of a big deal and hope that the potential employer does not go prying into the personal details of your work history.
Take Away Interview Tips
- No need to mention minor infractions.
- Try to downplay major errors.