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How To Handle The Job Interview When You’ve Been Fired

– Posted in: Job Search Interviewing

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Okay, so you’ve been fired.  It happens, even to some very interesting and successful people.  Perhaps you saw it coming.  Perhaps you didn’t (which is a topic for another time).  Either way, the effect a termination has on your life usually ranges from unpleasant to downright devastating.

Compounding the discomfort you suffer from losing your job is the reality that, like most folks, you really can’t afford to take a lot of time to adjust or recover from the shock of essentially being told that you’re just not good enough.  You’ve got to look for another job, probably sooner than later.

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As it turns out, you may actually find that your job search gives you focus and purpose.  But there’s one aspect of looking for work after being fired that can be quite challenging:  The job interview.  This is true even if you were fired from a job prior to the one you just left (or are considering leaving).  

Potential employers are pretty diligent when conducting background checks on applicants, a process that includes checking references.  Of course, if you’ve been fired from a job, you’re certainly not going to include that employer on your list of references.  This doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t be asked to provide specific information surrounding the separation of employment from each of your previous employers.  If you’ve ever been “let go” from a job, then one of the job interview essentials you must learn is how to deal with that scenario when it comes up.

Here, then, are some suggestions to help you prepare for the job interview question:  “Why were you fired”:

Be truthful with yourself.  No matter how unfair the firing might have been, it’s highly unlikely that you didn’t play at least some part in the chain of events that led to your termination.  Try to sever your emotions from your analysis so that you can take an objective look at not only what happened but also what you can learn from it.  The ability to do so will serve you well professionally and personally.

Tell.  The. Truth.  You may think you can get away with a certain amount of fabrication or embellishment (because we know you wouldn’t tell a flat-out lie!) but trust us:  In our Internet world, nothing stays undisclosed for long.  If you’re found to have misstated the facts or, conversely, that you omitted important information, your credibility will be almost certainly be irreparably harmed.

Script an answer to the interview question. There should be no reason that you don’t have a cogent, concise and well thought-out response ready when asked why you were fired.  If you come across as surprised, embarrassed or otherwise uncomfortable during the interview, not only will your answer be taken with the proverbial grain of salt, but your interviewer will be left scratching his or her head trying to figure out how you could be so unprepared.

Practice, practice, practice.  Once you’ve crafted an honest answer to the question that demonstrates you are mature enough to reflect on your firing objectively, rehearse this part of the interview until you’re able to discuss your termination in dispassionate tones that demonstrate your professionalism and that you have no emotional energy around the event.  If you’re not comfortable describing the circumstances, keep practicing until you are.

The facts ma’am, just the facts.  Don’t volunteer too much.  Don’t be defensive.  Don’t be flippant.  Just summarize what happened and move on: How did you get in that situation? What did you learn from it? What will you do differently in the future because of it?

And don’t blame anyone else.  Or denigrate your employer.  This should go without saying, though, right? Because no one wants to hire that person.  No one.

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The ULTIMATE Collection of Resume Examples That Show You Exactly HOW TO...
Maximize Your Strengths & Transform Even Your Toughest Challenges Into a JOB-WINNING Resume

“Finally! A comprehensive e-manual of professionally written sample resumes that show you step-by-step (using 101 REAL before-and-after examples) exactly how to create your own job-winning resume – or transform one that isn’t working for you!”

101 REAL examples, tips, strategies, and valuable professional trade secrets you can download and use right NOW!

About the author: Michelle Dumas is a multiply-certified, national-award-winning professional resume writer and career marketing expert widely recognized as pioneering thought-leader and trend-setter in the employment services industry. With 20 years of experience, Michelle has helped 10,000+ job seekers in all 50 U.S. states and across the world land rewarding jobs and build fulfilling careers.

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