It’s the dreaded question that no one wants to answer in an interview: why did you leave your last job? If you left of your own volition it’s not a big deal, but if the choice to leave wasn’t yours, it can turn the whole conversation on its head. Being fired from your last job isn’t a death knell for future employment. It just means that you have to put a little more thought and planning into your next interview and how to address the question when it inevitably comes up. Here’s how to explain why you were fired.
Do Some Pre-planning
In order to address this sensitive matter objectively, take yourself out of the story. Remove all feelings you may have about the incident, and look at the situation as an onlooker. After setting personal emotion and opinion aside, can you see why you were let go? This is the time to make peace with it. It happened, it’s over and in the past. Once you can clearly reflect upon the situation, you can begin to understand how and why it happened. You don’t have to like what happened, but explaining why you were fired to a stranger is a lot more difficult if you can’t get through the story without breaking down in tears.
Often, what matters most to the interviewer centers on how you have come to terms with your firing rather than why you were fired in the first place. If your answer casts blame on everyone except yourself, you will be seen as someone who cannot accept responsibility for their actions. Anger and bitterness, even if you were wronged, will not help your cause in this situation. What they want to see is that you accept your part in the firing and that you have learned something from it. Honesty is crucial here. If they catch you in a lie it will destroy your credibility and any chance you have at landing the job.
Stick to the facts. Though you may feel tempted to provide backstory for context and little asides to help the interviewer see your point of view, DON’T DO IT! It may help to map out ahead of time what you plan on saying. Script it out in your mind. Rehearse it in the mirror. Leave the ancillary details out. Calmly offer a brief summary of what happened and include what you learned from the experience. Anything more than this could open doors to undesirable questions. If you are brief and matter of fact about it and the interviewer can see that you’ve learned from the experience, there will be no reason to belabor this part of the interview.
You Could Always Leave it off Your Resume…
Ok, so this may sound a little sneaky, but don’t immediately rule it out before considering it. A resume is simply how you choose to represent yourself in the best way for a new opportunity. It’s not a legal document. There is no harm in leaving it off. Now, if the employer wants a list of all of your recent jobs or you have to fill out an application, that’s something entirely different. They can run checks and see if you left anything off on purpose, which can eventually hurt your chances.
Keep in mind that you will likely need to account for the chunk of time that job filled in your prior work history. Have an answer prepared ahead of time. Again, it is imperative to be honest. This may take you straight back to square one with having to explain why you got fired, so really, this is a judgment call on your part as to whether or not to leave it off your resume.
Remember: you aren’t the first person to be fired from a job. Interviewers see it all the time. What’s important is how you present this information to a potential future employer when you decide how to explain why you were fired. Don’t look at it as a deal breaker, but rather a chance to demonstrate your capacity for honesty and your ability to learn from your experiences. How you handle and overcome being fired may just be the thing that helps you to score your next job.
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