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Fired from Your Last Job? Here’s How to Address This Career Hiccup During the Interview Process

Whether it came as a surprise or was expected, being fired can be unnerving, upsetting and a blow to your confidence. It can also be intimidating to think about how you’ll address the issue during an interview. Know this - it’s okay to have been fired at one point in your career, the key is handling it properly. Here are four tips on how to address this often-difficult topic.

Language that works for you.

You can be honest and upfront with why you are no longer with the company without the harshness of, “I was fired.” Something like, “Ultimately it was their decision, but I agreed it wasn’t the right fit” can be very effective. You can say “let go” if that language works for you, but I advise against calling your dismissal a “lay off” or “mutual split” if that’s not what it was. Figure out the best way to say it honestly, practice a few times and become comfortable with it – this will only benefit you during your interview. 

Address it directly. 

Face it straight on and in the most professional manner. In telling your story, you have the opportunity to showcase a unique side of yourself, and one that can be appealing to a hiring manager. If you feel you could have handled certain things better and you learned from the experience, say it – and even give a brief example if it makes sense. Be concise in your response, there is no need to go into detail unless probed. 

Please don’t say, “I have no idea why I was fired.” It’s likely not honest, and it does not portray you as someone who is self-aware or has the ability to learn and grow from their mistakes. 

Save the negativity. 

The way you discuss a company that fired you speaks about your character and demonstrates to a hiring manager how you will speak about their company if you ever leave. Be as positive or at the very least, as neutral as possible. Never bash a former employer, even if there were issues in the way they handled things with your employment or termination. It’s like dating. On a first date, it’s poor form to talk about how you were dumped and how terribly your ex behaved. Bashing past people is an off-limits conversation, both on a first date and on an interview!

When giving detail, you can acknowledge the role was not a culture fit, but avoid portraying your boss as a monster. You can say the long-term goals of the company were not in line with your career goals, but don’t talk about how the company was going broke and the CFO was a dope. Be mature and show the hiring manager you are professional. If you are bitter or defensive, it could come across as you trying to cover something up.  

Shift the conversation.

Don’t let being fired take over the interview. After explaining why it happened and why it wasn’t a good fit, drive the conversation towards what you learned from the experience career-wise and personally. Focus on the resulting professional growth, and how the experience made you realize what your strengths are and what you can bring to a company.

Being fired is difficult, but don’t let one bad experience ruin future opportunities.

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