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How to Avoid Being Labeled as “Damaged Goods” by an Employer

Young businessman feeling like damaged goods, looking downcast

Is there anything more awkward than realizing, in the midst of a job interview, that the person on the other side of the table has conclusively decided you’re NOT the right candidate?

The clue is usually non-verbal, but it is unmistakable.

The air in the room changes.

And no matter how hard you try to get things back on track, you’re never seriously considered for the role again.

This is what being labeled as “damaged goods” by an employer looks like.

Are there steps you can take to keep this from happening?


Also read: 3 Mistakes that Turn You Into a Commodity Candidate

Here’s what to look out for:

1) Letting Other People’s Views Color Your Career Narrative

The only person who controls your story, where you’re coming from, what you’ve done, and where you’re going…is YOU.  When you’re asked about your background and it’s clear that you’ve absorbed some of the negative judgments of previous employers, that’s a HUGE warning sign. Now is the time to take a hard look at the stories you’re sharing in the interview room, and ask yourself: am I coming across in the strongest possible light? Is there a clear INTENTIONALITY in the choices I’ve made? Framing events in a negative or a passive way is a dead giveaway that work needs to be done in this area.

2) Never Saying No

Let’s say you’re about to make a major purchase, and the salesperson keeps “Yessing” you to death. No matter what request you make, the answer is always yes. At a certain point, wouldn’t your suspicions be raised about this person’s ability to actually deliver on what they’re promising?

A shortcut to being trusted and seen as credible is to define certain limits early. You’re not available for a phone call all of Thursday- you’re available at 3 particular times. You’re not automatically on board for a follow-up interview- at least not until getting some insight into what’s going to be covered that wasn’t in the previous one (and ideally how close they are to making a decision). And if you’re asked something you’re not comfortable answering, explain why and decline.

Also read: 3 More Hidden Triggers in Hiring (and How to Use Them)

3) A Low-Level Platform

At a certain point, simply tacking on more experience to your Resume and LinkedIn Profile will not cut it. Raw experience and qualifications can only take you so far. Beyond a certain level, VISION and STRATEGY need to come into play. What you have to offer needs to be as much about how you see things as what you can do.

Here are some highly visible places to communicate this:

The LinkedIn Headline. Apart from your profile photo, this is the next most important part of your LinkedIn Profile. Don’t make the mistake of leaving this as the default, which is your current job title. Instead, take the time to pull up the LinkedIn Profiles of people who HAVE the type of role you’re after, and use their headlines as inspiration for your own. For example: “A Leader in Digital/Social Media Marketing and Brand Engagement for the Health sector.”

-The opening section of your Resume. Don’t go for a generic opening paragraph here. Instead, create a few highly focused bullet points which address the PAIN POINTS you can address. Frame your strongest skills from the POV of what you can do and the whole platform becomes stronger.

For example:  “A BUSINESS PARTNER who can execute major turnarounds, effectively position complex products and services, and bring a strong analytics component into play in the form of Customer Insights, Business Intelligence, Database Marketing, and CRM.”

About the Author

Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Personal Branding Expert, and a fierce advocate for transitioning leaders. His posts and videos on disrupting the "normal rules" of job searching and getting ahead reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Go down the rabbit hole of Anish’s career videos at, and connect with him on LinkedIn to receive daily career tips and advice.