I've been working on a project that involves asking real-world hiring managers for their thoughts on a variety of interview topics. One of the most enlightening comments (so far) came from a hiring manager with 25 years of interviewing and hiring experience. I asked whether a job seeker who's been fired should admit that during an interview. His reply?
"Of course not! You're not trying to get into heaven,
you're trying to get a job!"
"I'm not saying you should tell an outright lie," he clarified, "because if they hire you and find out later that you lied, you'll be fired again. But it's foolish to tell a prospective employer that your old employer fired you."
I thought that was a great way of looking at it. Some job seekers feel guilty if they don't confess every detail. But omitting certain details is not the same as making a false statement.
So how should you address a past firing in an interview? Follow these three simple principles:
If they don't ask, don't tell.
Never volunteer negative information in an interview. Prepare an answer, but cross your fingers that you won't have to use it.
If they do ask, put a positive spin on the truth.
Avoid harsh words like "fired" or "terminated." Talk about things like "differing expectations," or "a mutual realization that it wasn't a good fit."
Be factual and brief, then change the subject.
Finish your answer with a statement or question that redirects the topic back to your qualifications and enthusiasm for the new job.
Here's a sample of how this might work:
"I really liked the company, and I'd been very successful in the role for two years. When a corporate reorganization brought a new set of expectations from the management team, I think my supervisor and I both realized the job was no longer a good fit. What skills do you think are important to ensure a good fit in this role?"
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