Coming Clean About a Termination

A reader writes…

I was fired from my last job! How do I handle that in an interview?

Dear “Damage Control,”

There’s no doubt about it, this can be a difficult situation.  Though I don’t know your exact  circumstance, nor the cause of your termination – don’t worry, you can spare the details –  I have some ideas that may help:

  1. When you’re asked, “Why did you leave your last job?” (by the way, you WILL be asked), try softening the subject by saying something like, “Unfortunately, there are a lot of people losing jobs these days.” Then sit tight and hope the interviewer switches gears.

I hate to say it, but he or she probably won’t.  Instead, they may pause and assume you will elaborate.  Or, they will ask for more details about YOU specifically.  That’s when you need to put on your trusty thinking cap and, as the Boy Scouts would say, “Be Prepared.”

  1. Deliver a brief, well-phrased, and well-rehearsed response that ends on a positive note.  More often than not, especially in an uncomfortable situation, people tend to dwell on the details that will merely raise more questions and make the situation worse.  Put down the shovel my friend, and stop digging yourself into a deeper ditch!
  2. Address your contributions and accomplishments in your last job.  Next, simply explain that your organization went through a series of transitions and staff was reduced – which is not uncommon these days.  Or, you can explain that you ended up with a new manager who wanted to make changes (if that was the case), and you were unfortunately part of that “change.”
  3. Here’s the kicker…  you want to gracefully transition what was once a “challenge” into an “opportunity” by saying something like, “In many ways, maybe this was a blessing in disguise.  I am looking forward to new opportunities, and this will give me the chance to develop my skills and career in a new environment.”
  4. End by asking a question about the company or expectations of the position.  You know…  throw ‘em off course a bit by re-directing the conversation.

In a nutshell, discussing a termination is never easy, but as long as you are honest, yet to the point, you will feel much more comfortable… and confident!




2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. christella phillips
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 10:38:57

    I just don’t put that one on my resume mine was less then 6 mts all my other jobs were for years and years… up to you but only and I know they will ask at the interview ask keep it short and sweet; doing so make yourself look like they lost an excellent employee.


  2. Stacy
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 08:47:01

    The best you could do is ONLY they ask why did you leave and What happen? You have be honest about because you can get sued by not telling the truth. I was fired once and I told them the truth and they really glad that I told them the truth and I said, “I was fired and told them what happen.”( very short and simple) The next thing I was hired if I want the job They were so happy that I told them the truth. I was very nervous about and my hands was shaking. I did it and felt good about it.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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