Job Interview: Advice Needed

So, I just applied for a job that I have been dying to snag since I even found out it existed two years ago (they just posted an opening.) The work would be as a bilingual customer service representative for a non-profit debt consolidation company. I am particularly fond of the organization because I am a former client, so I am fully aware of the good it can do.

I know I can land this job with my objective qualifications, and I have no intention of volunteering the fact that I formerly used their services.

My one concern is: What to do if they ask whether or not I am familiar with their organization, and how I know it? Admittedly, I already know a lot about how their process works. I can’t figure out whether it would be bad, bad, bad to 'fess up to being a former client during the interview? Or would a nonprofit regard that kind of empathy and previous knowledge as a plus?

So what do you think? What would be the best response if I am asked about my previous knowledge of the company? I don’t want something lame like this to stand in the way of landing a job I know I will be great at.

Thanks in advance…

ETA: When I was a client it was at a different branch from the one to which I am applying, and under my maiden name.

I would think it would be in your favor to “fess up”. Among other things, they’re very possibly (probably) going to do a credit check anyway (lots of employers who work in lending or debt do this) and they’ll discover it, and it would be rather odd to say “Our customers are the worst people on earth, but we don’t want them working for us”.

I’d say don’t volunteer unless asked, and if asked be honest- “I used your services once”- and go from there. A need-to-know thing, but above all DO NOT LIE ABOUT IT as that would be the worst thing you could do.

Why not? You bring a unique insight to all the good they do. I would think they would want a “success story” working for them. It’s nothing to be ashamed of…they helped you in a time of need, and you are so impressed, you want to work for them.

I dunno, I guess I’m jaded by my experiences with academia. The basic rule of thumb for graduate school applications, for example, is: ‘‘Never show ANY weakness, EVER!!!’’

I guess I just figured it would carry over to the business world.

Sampiro, I really appreciate your advice, I just wanted it to be clear that I would never lie about something like that. I’m one of those people who can’t even lie to my dentist.

Years ago I went for some credit counselling and the woman there, she got her job, because she told HER credit counsellor that she wanted HIS job. Apparently she had been forced to declare bankruptcy because of a “leaky condo” and she worked for one of Canada’s major banks. This was many years ago, and I don’t remember the details, but she was pushed out or encouraged to quit her job because bankruptcy isn’t looked well upon when your employer holds your defaulted mortgage. Anyway, she ended up working for the credit counselling non profit… and was able to be very helpful in that she had “looked at life from both sides now.”

So yes, I see no problems with telling them, especially if their guidance has helped you turn things around.

Best of luck.

Not necessarily. You can enjoy a company’s products/services, and be so impressed with the way they run their business that you want to work there. You know first hand that they do good work, and I would think it would be a plus to say, “I know personally what a fantastic job you do, and I’d like to be a part of your team.” I would think they would take it as a compliment.

I agree that you should tell them and that it should work in your favor. Good luck!


I agree with the others. Tell them about your past experience and how favorably you were impressed.

Suggestion: Print a copy of this thread. After the interview (assuming you choose disclosure), give it to the interviewer.
I know that if I were the one interviewing you, I’d enjoy the background, and would consider it in your favor that you spent your Sunday asking opinions of others, about a job you really want.
For what it’s worth,

I disagree with this suggestion for two reasons. First, you don’t necessarily want to give the appearance of needing to get an opinion poll before making a decision. Second, if it came out in the wrong context, you might be perceived as having considered not disclosing a prior relationship between you and the company. Unlikely, I know, but it is conceivable.

Laughing – actually, I completely agree with Boyo Jim. I hadn’t thought of either of those points when I made the suggestion.
Scratch my idea!

Several years ago Saturn ran an ad which featured a woman who was a customer of Saturn’s saying that she liked the way that they treated her so much that she decided to start selling cars for them. If the organization doesn’t like the fact that you used to be a client and now want to work for them, then they’re not as good as an organization as you thought, and thus aren’t worth your effort.

When I worked for the Consumer Credit Counselling Service in the UK, a fellow customer servant there had gone bankrupt in recent years, and was very open about it. I think it was considered valuable experience, and part of the charity’s ethos was encouraging people not to feel shameful about their debt experiences. So I would use it in your interview as something you have learnt from.

The charity weren’t so pleased with me requesting advances on my wage when I was skint from poor money management however… :dubious:

What he (and others) said. If it works against you, you probably don’t really want to be working for them, anyway.

And – loads of good luck!!

Bad move. Declare it. Rejoice in it. Demonstrate to them that you have experience!

Wow, I have to admit these responses have surprised me. I would have never guessed (hoped, but not guessed) that this was in my favor. Thanks very much for all of your advice.

Its in your favor - as long as you are truly “reformed” - look at Weight Watchers - almost all their staffers are required to be lifetime members to get the job. Many drug and alcohol abuse counselors are former addicts. This isn’t a weakness, this is a strength…“I’ve been here, I know how easy it is to get yourself here, I know it takes hard work and sacrifice to get out of it, and I’m living proof it can be done and doing so will make your life better.”

(Now, if they pull your credit report to discover your car got repo’d last week…)

Just want to thank you all, again, for your excellent advice. I went in there, and when asked how I know about the company, unapologetically stated that I was a former client and knew firsthand how the system works and how much good it can bring.

They must have loved it. I got the job! :smiley:


My employers tend to be obscure companies, but even the ones who are about as obscure as an old-fashioned magnesium flash ask whether I know their company… it’s always good to be able to say yes.

Wooohooooo! Congratulations!