If you’ve ever been fired, this question is probably the one interview question you dread the most. Not only have you had a bad experience, but you have to talk about it again and again. How you deal with this question in your interviews will depend a lot on how you have resolved the issue with yourself. In order to answer the question effectively it will be important to deal with it ahead of time by scripting an answer.
Here are examples of how two candidates answer the question:
“I had a great boss, but he left. From the very beginning it was clear that my new boss and I were going to be at odds. We just had different types of personalities. She kept changing the rules. One day she would want it this way, and the next day another way,” rambled Karen. “I don’t usually have problems with bosses but this woman was really overbearing in her management approach.”
This is not the best way to present the situation. This candidate could be classified as a “whiner.” Badmouthing former employers during the interview is a bad idea. No one wants to hear about someone else’s shortcomings, particularly someone they don’t even know.
“I was fired after a major reorganization. The merging of different cultures had caused a major change in the way things were done. There were some differences of opinion between my boss and myself and, in the end, I was fired. I take responsibility for my part in the way things turned out. I learned a lot from the experience, and in retrospect, I would have handled it differently. But, that is behind me now, and I am ready to move on with a new perspective.”
This is a much better answer because it demonstrates strength and self-confidence. Candidate #2 takes responsibility and deals with the question honestly.
Whether you were fired under unfair circumstances, or for something you did that you regret, write down your thoughts, and how you would answer this question. Read your script aloud, or use a tape recorder, and practice until you like what you hear. Better yet, answer the question for someone else in a mock interview. Have him or her observe your interview technique – body language, eye contact, comfort-level while answering this question. Feedback from someone else will help you improve your presentation.
It is very important to find out what your former boss/company will say, or not say, about you if called for a reference. Whatever they say it should be in sync with the answer you give. Despite the firing, if, you left under terms that were agreeable, check with your former employer to find out what you can expect.
Probably the worst way to handle this question is by lying. One lie usually leads to another, and before you know it you are in over your head. You always take a chance whenever you put a lie on an application. The application usually has a signature line on the back where you sign, stating that the above is true, and that any false statements could be grounds for termination.
It is a fact that “people get fired everyday.” They move on and get new job. And, you will too. No matter what the circumstances, put it behind you and move on. Deal with your feelings about the firing, and prepare your answer to the question before it is asked. Being prepared will make you feel more confident and less emotional about the situation.
Copyright (c) 2007 Carole Martin, The Interview Coach