John Neral: What to Say/Ask in Interviews When Returning After Burnout

52m | Apr 7, 2024

“How you take command of the narrative is what’s going to see you through when you begin to determine what parts, if any, of the story you want to tell.” John Neral, executive and career transition coach, and host of the Mid-Career GPS podcast, joins FRIED to discuss how best to address gaps that burnout leaves in your resume when interviewing with a potential new employer. The first step is removing any shame and recognizing your own power in the process—you are evaluating the company just as much as they’re evaluating you. Using the Four Fs—Fit, Function, Finance, Forward—John advises the questions to ask to determine your values and whether they match the company’s, how to negotiate your best compensation package, and why you should be thinking two steps ahead.


He’ll tell you when to take the conversation deeper and as well as how to avoid wasting both parties’ time. How do those with rejection sensitivity dysmorphia, or those who are still recovering from burnout create the best outcome for both the short term and the long term? Listen as John tells a story about the rude comment one HR executive made that determined his decision of whether to work with the company and his very New Jersey response in return. 


  • “We grew up thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh. They’re going to bless me with an interview. I have to be good and I can’t offend them and I can’t—we don’t want to offend anyway—but I can’t upset them and if I ask this question, what are they going to think?’ Some of the best compliments, Cait, when I was interviewing for jobs, that I ever got, were when somebody on the interview panel would look at someone and say, ‘I feel like I’m the one being interviewed,’ and I would say, ‘Well, you are.’” (8:17 | John Neral) 
  • “Oftentimes we think, ‘Oh, gosh. Now, we’re going to talk about money.’ Now battle lines are drawn, it’s them versus us —no, it’s not. Round the edges off. It’s a conversation. ‘This is what I want. Can we make this up here? What about this?’ If anything, it’s an opportunity for you to get really curious, to know what you want but get really curious because how the company negotiates with you at that point is also going to tell you a lot about their culture.” (27:59 | John Neral)
  • “Oftentimes, job seekers will look at going for a job as an immediate solution or quick fix of getting them out of a situation they’ve been in. ‘I work for a toxic employer. I haven’t had a job, I just have to accept something and move on.’ When people aren’t thinking forward about forward, what happens is this decision becomes very isolative. ‘I’ve checked the box, so now what?’” (32:06 | John Neral)
  • “Career gaps and break are not as stigmatized or biased as what they were pre-pandemic.”(39:56 | John Neral)
  • “This is what I needed, this is what I did, here’s what I learned, here’s what I gained, here’s why this is of value to you. Take that gap and turn it back to, ‘Here’s why I’m a better leader, a better employer, here’s what it is that I’ve done.” (43:00 | John Neral) 


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Fried. The Burnout Podcast