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Fired? How to Discuss This in Your Interview

During almost every interview session, for any position in any industry, one question will be more or less inevitable: “Tell me more about your last job.” Most employers will start with a few pleasantries and general questions about your goals and intentions, and then move immediately into a discussion of what you’ve done in the past. And since your last job provides a perfect launch point for this conversation, you’ll need to discuss your most recent position in a way that’s positive and meaningful. But what if your last job didn’t go very well at all? And what if you left under circumstances that are difficult to portray in a glowing light? Here are a few ways to deal with this question if you were fired or dismissed involuntarily.

Don’t Bring it Up

The most important rule is simple: don’t offer this information or initiate this conversation unless you’re asked. It may seem like a gesture of honesty to jump in front of this issue and voluntarily blurt out that you were fired from your last job, but this move is more likely to harm your chances than help you. Give yourself room to grow and change as a person. If given the chance to do so, leave the past where it belongs: behind you.

If Asked, Answer Briefly

If your interviewer wants to know the circumstances of your exit, keep your response honest, clear, positive, and above all, short. Practice an answer that can be delivered in ten words or fewer. Stay positive. According to HR experts, the most valuable word you can use under these circumstances will be the word “fit”, as in: “the job was not an ideal fit”, or “the company and I were not a fit.”

Take Responsibility, Within Limits

If your interviewer probes for more detail, you can briefly explain the philosophical or personality mismatches that pushed you out the door. But frame your departure in terms of a misalignment, not as a personal shortcoming on your part. Don’t make excuses, but at the same time, don’t take on a full burden of blame that isn’t yours to bear.

A Layoff is Not a Firing

Most responsible employers recognize that layoffs and job loss due to restructuring are not the fault of the employee, and that almost every employee experiences at least one or two involuntary job losses during his or her career. Performance-based or disciplinary firings are another matter, but wise managers and interviewers can easily understand the difference.

For more on how to move past this detail and keep the conversation focused on your skills and credentials, contact the staffing team at PSU.