Why You Were Let Go

SC&C Talking about being firedThis is never going to be a good or happy conversation. You may have left your previous employer on bad terms—stormed out in a blaze of glory or been escorted out of the building. Whether or not it was your fault, your prospective new employer is going to want an explanation. And guess what—you can’t lie.

You shouldn’t skirt around the issue either because when they check with a previous employer, they may end up with a very negative, one-sided, unfair depiction of the events or a very icy response, “Yes, he did work here and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”

Be honest about your exit, but with finesse, if necessary.

Alison Green, author of the Ask a Manager blog advises, “Ideally, you’d respond with the truth: You were looking for more responsibility, or wanted a job closer to home, or you were laid off, or whatever the real reason happens to be. But what if the real reason is that your boss was a raving lunatic or that you hated all your coworkers? If that’s the case, you need to finesse your answer.”

Have Your Answer Prepared

The first thing to do is not to get caught without an answer. Failure to disclose can put you out of contention for a position. It isn’t as if they are not going to ask you about it but don’t be overzealous in providing information. Think about your former job in terms of your responsibilities. Were you recognized for any exceptional work? Did you receive any awards from the community or your coworkers for your efforts that would show you in a positive light, from an independent source? Did you receive any promotions?

You’re going to want to have all this information readily available to address any questions this potential new employer might have.

Stay Positive in Your Answers

Next you have to explain your side of the issue without being negative about your previous employer—difficult but not impossible. Your new employer will consider how you speak about your previous employer as the same way you will speak about them when you part company.  Be very factual and admit if you were fired. Qualify this with how you’ve learned from the experience; explain the steps you’ve taken to improve yourself so that this sort of complaint will not arise again.

It is important to be factual, but remember to steer the conversation back to a more positive area. “I was not a great fit for that position when my duties changed. You see my strengths are much more in the area of…”

Go one step further. Rack your brains if you have to, but find something positive to say about your last employer. No matter how miserable or horrid your situation was, be the bigger person and find something honestly good to say about your previous employer—Your coworkers were great; the employee bathroom looked like it had been taken out of a palace; the flexible hours allowed you time to work at the local community center for seniors. Anything you can imagine.

Ashley Putnam, Fellowship Director for The Work First Foundation, warns, “If you left a job because of a personal disagreement or issue, don’t bring it up in your interview. Work is work, and no matter how much we identify what we do with who we are, I want to know if you can maintain your professionalism in my company.”

SC&C Smile when talking about previous employerStaying positive means you are forward thinking and progressive. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious. You can tell them that you were promised an exciting career with lots of potential for advancement, but ended up stuck at a desk doing the same thing, day in and day out, with no challenges and it began to wear on you mentally. You were forced to look for something new because the other job was clearly a dead end.

You could say there was plenty of opportunity to innovate, but the company seemed satisfied with the status quo. They were completely uninterested in any ideas you had for making the product better. You knew it was time to move on.

What if they let you go because they hired international staff to do your job for less? You can say that your job was outsourced overseas because they elected to go with a cheaper product rather than proven quality work from people in the community.

More importantly, with each critique of your previous employer’s choices it is important to point out how this new job will allow you to use your creative ability; how it provides an opportunity for you to contribute and make use of your skills. Convince them that you think you have finally found the place where you can make a difference.

Getting fired is not the end of the world. It can be very depressing, and disheartening, but you have to personally turn it around and make something good out of it. Sometimes a traumatic event like this is actually a positive thing; it’s like a kick in the seat of the pants to get you moving again when your career has stalled and you have failed to recognize it.

Shake it off; paste a smile on your face; and get back out there. There’s a job out there for you and it’ll be better than the last one. You just have to find it.

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