The hit TV show The Apprentice made the saying “You’re Fired!” famous. While most of us couldn’t wait to hear those words during the show, the reality of being fired can be devastating. It can lead to self-doubt, situational frustration, and anxiety to name a few.
Then comes the uncomfortable realization that you’ll have to explain why you were fired on your next interview. Melissa Ricker, an engineering manager and writer who covers career and management topics outlines How to Explain Being Fired During a Job Interview:
Always tell the truth.
There are many complex reasons why you might have been fired, but the truth is your best option. Misrepresenting the scenario leading up to the termination will do nothing but complicate the situation, and in most cases, it will compound the issue. Employers may even uncover the truth while completing a reference check, leading to disqualification from consideration or withdrawal of an offer. Keep your explanation simple, discussing the facts without drawing out every little detail of your termination. Leave the “he said, she said” and “he did, she did” at home!
Don’t get emotional.
Leave out negative comments about your previous employer. Keep your emotions in check even if you feel you were terminated without just cause. Negative comments about your boss or employer will leave a bad taste in the mouth of the recruiter or hiring manager. Employers are looking for candidates that are level-headed and keep the conversation positive.
In most situations, your actions contributed to your termination. Take the high road and explain how the situation caused personal and professional growth. Answering in this manner will be an example that lessons were learned from a difficult situation. Remember that we are all human and make mistakes. Chances are someone you interview with has been through a firing and will appreciate you owning your mistakes and learning from them. Share how you will deal with similar situations going forward.
Practice before the interview.
Practice different interview scenarios to reduce any nervousness about discussing your termination. As stated earlier, getting fired is a stressful and emotional event. Take time to practice talking aloud using a mirror or a recording device as a learning tool. Have friends or former colleagues help you prepare by performing mock interviews, using the feedback to prevent negative body language. Keep practicing until you are confident and feel ready to interview.
Getting fired doesn’t mean you are a bad employee; the recruiter or hiring manager will not think negatively of you. It also doesn’t mean you’ll never work in your chosen field again. Many famous executives have been fired and then gone on to do great things. We are our own worst critics, and no one will judge you for being fired.
To sum it up:
“Answer the question with confidence. Chalk it up as a learning experience. Show the recruiter who you are and what you have to offer. You are a strong candidate. Your termination was merely a speed bump in your career path. Follow these tips and strategies outlined above, and then walk out with your head held high. Focus on the future! The past is behind you.” (Ricker, n.d.)