QUESTION: I recently got fired from my last job; how do I explain this in an interview?
Keep your answer short, honest, and to the point. Tailor your response to fit your circumstances and how your termination was handled. Don’t give a lengthy explanation or details behind why you were fired. Simply state the reason and move the conversation forward to a different topic. DO NOT LIE. Your previous employer can disclose this information during a reference check.
The best way to handle this situation is to own it. Coming to terms with the incident will help overcome shame, guilt, or regret and build confidence, and enable you to discuss the matter in a positive manner. It may also help to address the situation as a professional learning experience, something that will transcend to the interviewer as a valuable trait in a candidate.
Prepare and use factual answers that explain the situation succinctly. Include what you have learned, how it will not happen in the future, and how you are a fit for the job you are interviewing for. Don’t over-explain and don’t blame your boss or the old company. Share only as much as you are comfortable with and what the new organization will find out about during their background check of you.
Acknowledge the firing, but explain it BRIEFLY–no need to go into drawn-out details or get emotional. You can say, “I outlasted several rounds of lay-offs, but unfortunately the last round included me. It was tough to handle at first, but in reflection, I learned so much from that experience. I’d like the chance to prove I’ve grown, and I’d consider this opportunity a fresh new start.”
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is currently a highly sought employee attribute. You can demonstrate high EI by talking about what you learned from being fired. An employer will most want to know: 1) that this is not a pattern in your employment history, 2) that you used the experience to learn and improve and 3) that you are honest. Cover these points to make a negative experience a positive outcome.
Be honest and make sure your answer is to the point. It’s easy to let negative emotions enter into the conversation so practice, practice, practice your response. You will want to frame the experience in the most positive light possible (an error you’ve learned from) and then steer the conversation toward the strengths you bring to the table.
Calmly, truthfully, and very briefly describe the situation, making sure not to bash your former employer. Talk about the fact that your goals and the company’s goals were not aligned, and you are now looking for a perfect fit for your skills and talents. Craft a statement that ends on a positive note, for example, what you learned from that experience, and what you are looking forward to next.
Briefly admit your mistake and explain how you have grown from this challenge. If applicable, give some scope around your termination. Not sugar coating your termination gives you authenticity and helps you connect with your interviewer who has gone through their own life challenges. After your short explanation, explain why you are excited about this position and how you are uniquely qualified.
Tell the truth. There’s no need to give all of the gory details. Just explain your story and quickly shift the conversation back into a positive direction. Focus on what you’ve done to prevent recurring behavior and how your skills/expertise solve the employer’s immediate problem. Practice your response until you’re comfortable. Provide references that can vouch for your stellar performance.
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