Don’t let your nerves get the better of you when the interviewer asks why you were fired.
“What happened at your last position?” and “What was your reason for leaving your previous job?” are two of the most anxiety-inducing questions an interviewer can ask someone who has been terminated or laid off. Being let go from a job can be a stressful and trying time in your career, often making your job search seem more difficult. It's nearly impossible to not feel insecure after you've lost a job, but you can navigate this obstacle during an interview and still get hired.
Staying positive and upbeat, or at least faking it in interviews, will help you to overcome this career bump and land a great job! Read below for tips on how to find a job after being fired.
How should you respond when you've been fired from a job or laid off?
Honesty is the best policy. Termination and unemployment are common in all industries and doesn't have to be a big deal. Address the recruiter's questions, answer them honestly, and then highlight the qualifications and skills you have to help you succeed in the job you're applying for. How you respond can show a lot about your character and can leave a lasting impression on recruiters. Whether it's a positive or negative impression is up to you.
When responding to a question where you will reveal that you were fired from a position, handle it like any other interview question. Exude confidence, yet stay humble. Answer directly and honestly, but don't delve too deep into the details; keep only the basics. Pivot quickly back to why you're in the room today — to learn more about their open position and discuss how you can provide value to their organization.
The do's and don'ts of addressing unemployment during an interview
Be positive and keep your answer as simple as possible. Explain the situation without dwelling on the negative. When you've been laid off, it's easier to answer that tricky interview question because a layoff isn't necessarily the result of your actions. Handling questions about a termination, however, can be harder and more nerve-racking because it is often because of something you could have controlled. Everyone makes mistakes; just own it and move on without badmouthing your previous employer.
It never sits well with a recruiter if you speak poorly of a previous employer because what will stop you from speaking badly of their company? Keep your answer as truthful and simple as possible.
For example, I once coached a professional who was let go because the department was at over-capacity and there wasn't room for the position anymore. Unfortunately, she was also dealing with some sexual harassment behind the scenes. When I conducted a mock interview with her, we practiced her response to the question, “What was your reason for leaving?” by focusing on the fact that the department was at over-capacity and there was no longer room for her position. This approach to her interview response was sufficient and kept any negativity about her former company out of the conversation.
How should you redirect the conversation back to your abilities?
When explaining why you left your recent position, smoothly bring it back to your skills without ignoring the question altogether. For example: “I was terminated at company XYZ in March because of a miscommunication, but I am certain the skills learned there and at my previous position would make me a great fit for this position.” From there, you can highlight the skills you have which would help you thrive in the position for which you're applying.
You can also use the situation as a learning opportunity. When responding, let the recruiter know you took the obstacle in stride, learned from it, and are ready to use your newfound knowledge in this new position. An example: “I was let go of my last position because I misunderstood a procedure and instead of asking for clarification, I did it my own way. I now know it is OK to ask for help and won't make the same mistake again.”
How do you stay positive after a termination or layoff?
It's not uncommon for your self-confidence to take a hit after you've been fired from a job, but it will only hurt you if you let it. Remember, you're not alone — most everyone has been terminated from a role or laid off at some point in their careers. Recruiters hire people every day with these obstacles in their career history. What matters is how you react to your situation. Do you let it define you, or do you take this challenge by the horns and set out to make your next job even more fulfilling than the one you left?
Only you can make the situation positive. Recruiters will know if you are bitter about it, so practice your response, yell in your backyard, or do whatever it is you need to do to get the negativity about the situation out of your system. Go into an interview with the right mindset and look at the termination as nothing more than a bump in the road.
You can get hired after being fired!
Getting fired or laid off is not the end of the world or your career. If you stay positive, don't bad mouth your previous employer, and respond truthfully to the interview questions thrown your way, you will get hired again.
Need help learning how to answer these tricky questions? Check out our interview-coaching services now!
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