Your suit is pressed. Your resume is perfect. You’ve done your research on the company and your skills are ideal. But in the minutes leading up to your interview, all you can think is, “What will I say when they ask about my termination?” And they will ask. How you answer can either make or break your chances at landing that new position.
You’re not the weakest link
Job interviews are nerve-wracking enough without the added anxiety that often comes with explaining a termination. You may fear that being let go from a previous job is a kind of scarlet letter that brands you as a failure or a bad employee, but employers rarely do.
All careers have ebbs and flows, and terminations are a normal part of the cycle. The reasons vary: companies expand and contract, industries boom and bust, and professionals often find themselves in situations where they aren’t the best fit. Besides, in a turbulent economy with a national unemployment rate of 8.2%, it’s unlikely that you’ll be the only interviewee with a termination of some sort on your resume.
The truth will set you free
• Be truthful. If an interviewer directly asks you why you were let go from an organization, be honest. You don’t want to get caught in a lie during a background check. If you were laid off, say that.
• Be positive. No matter why you and your former employer parted ways, be tactful when discussing the situation. Never bad-mouth the organization to the interviewer. No one wants to hire an employee with a negative attitude. If things did not end well, you can say that you and the organization had differing opinions about the department’s direction, or something to that effect.
• Be forward-thinking. After you’ve discussed your reason for leaving your last position, bring the conversation back to your core skill set and how you can provide value to the prospective employer. “I was recently laid off from my previous role at Company XYZ, but I am most interested in learning more about the director position, as it seems that my extensive program management experience within the telecom industry would be valuable to your client.”
Remember, getting fired doesn’t define you. It shouldn’t embarrass you. The hiring manager hasn’t circled it on your resume in red ink and the recruiter didn’t label you as “that guy who got let go.” Instead of seeing your termination as a handicap, try viewing it as one more thing you have in common with your competition. How you frame it in an interview will make all the difference.