Heading into a job interview knowing you’ll be asked a question that reminds you of a bad time in your work life can add an extra degree of difficulty to an already stressful process. There are ways you can prepare, though, that will help you frame the issue as a challenge rather than an obstacle.
Among the things employers are looking for when speaking with you are how prepared and interested you are, explanations of your previous work, how you deal with challenges, and your ability to answer hard questions. In these ways, a question about why you were let go from a previous job is exactly like every other question you’ll be asked. And what matters the most is not that it happened, but how you address it.
It’s important to remember employers know that firing not only happens, but it happens for a lot of reasons. They also know many of those reasons don’t disqualify you for a job. The most important thing you can do when addressing the situation is to be honest. Honesty is always key in an interviewing process, but it’s especially important when addressing a topic that could be a red flag.
When you’re thinking about the interview, don’t avoid preparing for this question. Your interviewer will ask why you left your last position and the cause for dismissal. If it’s something you find difficult to talk about, it’s especially important to know just what you’re going to say. If you keep tripping up your practice answer, write down your response and read it out loud until you’re comfortable.
Being fired can be emotional, and so can talking about it. Since you always want to show your most professional self and thoughtful outlook in a job interview, it’s important to have reflected on and worked through the experience beforehand. If you find that talking about what happened unavoidably brings up feelings of frustration, sadness or anger, vent to a friend before the interview so when you’re in the room you can present the topic in a neutral and objective way. Be sure not to speak ill of anyone and not to assign blame to others or shirk it yourself.
Your explanation of what happened should be short, clear and to the point. Going into every detail of what happened can be tempting when you think it will present you in a better light, but being fired was only one moment in an extensive work history. A long explanation can sound like you’re trying to cover something, and will put too much attention on something that shouldn’t be the focal point of your interview. By being confident and direct in your answer, you let the interviewer know you’ve owned what happened and that you’re ready to move forward.
While part of addressing having been fired is what led to it, the other part is what it led to. We learn and grow the most from our biggest challenges, so it’s imperative that you let your interviewer know how you changed for the better. Did it lead you to explore new fields, create a positive personal change or teach you how to be a better leader? Be optimistic when you’re talking about how you dealt with adversity so your potential employer can see you’re ready to embrace a new position and give it your all.
Always keep in mind that no matter what you’re talking about in an interview, you are there to show the interviewer why you’re a great candidate for the job. So don’t linger on the good or the bad of the subject, instead create an opening to move into a conversation about the value you can add for the company. Using the “silver-lining” of what you’ve learned or where adversity led you and showcase a strength that you believe would make you a great employee.
Once the interview has moved on to new topics, don’t go back. What should be most clear when you walk out of an interview is not the only negative that was addressed, but the many ways in which you are a good candidate. So focus on the rest of the interview and make it the best it can be.
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Through its portfolio companies, KBW Financial Staffing & Recruiting, Alexander Technology Group, The Nagler Group, Sales Search Partners, and KNF&T Staffing Resources, BANKW Staffing, LLC is the leading regional provider of temporary and direct-hire staffing services in the areas of finance, accounting, information technology, office and administration, legal, human resources, and sales.
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