The Best Way to Answer “YES” to “Have You Ever Been Fired?”

Investment Banking Analyst, New York, NY
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For some, the question “Have you ever been fired?” can inspire a pit in the stomach when the answer to that question is “Yes”.  You may be among an unfortunate bunch who had a horrific experience at a company (or with a certain coworker or boss), ending in a not so ideal ending.  And whether your termination was your fault or not, it can continue to haunt you in your search for future prospects.  So what is the best way to field this tough issue?

Be Honest

First things first:  don’t lie.  It may be tempting to dismiss the topic altogether, hoping that the company you’re interviewing with never finds out – but what happens if they do?  If they find out during the interview process, you’re certain not to get the job.  And if they find out a few years down the line, no matter how great an employee you are, they may still decide to let you go.  A second termination is not what you want on your record, so do yourself a favor and be upfront and honest from the get go.  It’s much safer, and you’ll stress about if far less in the long run.

Provide Some Context

Explain the circumstances surrounding the incident.  If it was a conflict of interest, let the interviewer know.  If it happened 15 years ago, tell them that you now have a lot of distance from the incident and that your stellar work performance since then speaks for itself.  If it occurred in the more recent past, explain that you have learned quite a bit from the incident, but don’t spend your time making excuses.  Lay down the facts, and focus on what you’ve done since and will do in the future to demonstrate that you are a valuable employee who understands what it takes to be an asset to a company.

Don’t Give Away Too Much

While it’s important to be forthcoming in your response to this question, you also don’t want to spend too much time addressing the matter.  Keep the focus of the interview on what makes you the ideal person to hire, and spend as little time as you can conveying what the interviewer needs to know about that particular incident.  People who feel the need to defend themselves tend to over-explain, and this can portray lack of confidence and lead you down the wrong road.  Certainly stray away from speaking ill of your former boss or company, remaining as objective and succinct as possible.

No one likes getting fired and everyone wants to find a new job.  Don’t let one obstacle in your past set the tone for the rest of your career.  Concentrate on what you need to do to land your next job and on the reasons you’re a perfect fit for it, and the rest will follow.

Have a wonderful day,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News December 20: The Art of Office Gift Giving

Research Associate, New York, NY
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Holiday shopping for your loved ones can be hard enough, but trying to find the perfect gift for your boss or coworker can really add to your holiday stress.  Should you even get one in the first place?  And what’s appropriate?  Read on for some guidelines…

Understand the Office Policy

Offices can have some pretty complicated policies when it comes to gift giving.  After all, a company wants to avoid bribery or favoritism, and gifts around the holidays can get into some gray area.  Generally larger corporations are the ones that will have rules regarding what’s appropriate to give, so make sure you check before you stroll into the office with a toy sack slung over your shoulder.

Don’t Go Overboard

While you may be in a very giving mood this holiday season, it’s advisable not to go overboard with the gifts you pass out.  Organized office gift exchanges will generally have price limits in place, but if you’re going out on your own, don’t purchase anything that’s too extravagant or expensive.

Keep it Simple

Some good ideas for gifts include food baskets containing cookies, fruit, or candy – perfect for a coworker to share with his or her family.  You can also try exotic plants, or something that might be useful in the office.  Gift certificates are also a nice way to show your appreciation.  Yeah, all this stuff can seem boring and unoriginal, but you never know how another person’s taste might differ from yours, and it’s best to stay on the safe side.  You should avoid giving gifts that are tasteless or controversial, and stay away from giving clothes.  The bottom line here is to use your best judgment.  If you’re great friends with a coworker outside of the office, or have a really relaxed company culture, you probably have more latitude on gift options.

No Hurt Feelings

If you’re not going to be showering everyone in the office with presents, you probably shouldn’t make a big show of presenting a select few individuals with gift-wrapped goods.  Try to exchange gifts outside of the office or during after hours.  If this is impossible, do so discreetly.

Thanks and Come Again Next Year!

One final note – write a thank you note! It’s true that you don’t have to purchase something for every person who went out of his or her way to give you a gift, but you should remember to say thank you.  Writing a quick thank you note is a considerate gesture…and it locks you in to receive more cool stuff next holiday season!

Happy holidays,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News October 18: How to Avoid an “Unhappy” Hour – Tips for the Office Happy Hour

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Who doesn’t like a good Happy Hour after a long day at the office?  It’s a wonderful chance to unwind, bond with coworkers, suck up to the boss, and drink on a Tuesday without feeling guilty.  But it can understandably lead to a few sticky situations, as do all instances that mix alcohol and coworkers.  To ensure that your innocent after hours mixer doesn’t devolve into an all-out bar brawl, make sure to follow these simple guidelines when partying with the office:

Eat Before You Go

Since Happy Hours take place late in the afternoon or early evening before dinner, chances are you’re going to be running on empty this far out from lunch.  So make sure to eat a snack at the office or grab something on the way to the bar so that you aren’t drinking on an empty stomach.  No one wants to be the coworker who blows Happy Hour all over the bar or gets plastered after one drink.

Pace Yourself

While it may be tempting to show off your drinking skills to the office or go head-to-head with Rob from Accounts Payable on shots, try to contain your enthusiasm and pace yourself.  Happy Hour is not a contest, and if you make it out to be one, you may find yourself the loser when it comes to your job.

Don’t Set the Tone for Gossip

It’s no fun waking up the morning after Happy Hour and cringing at something you said about a fellow employee who you’re going to be seeing in an hour.  So avoid this situation altogether by sticking to lighthearted topics at the bar.  That means not engaging in even well-intentioned gossip while you’re still lucid, because this will inevitably transform into career-damaging slander a few more drinks in.

Treat the Bar Like the Office

While the whole point of Happy Hour is to get away from the office, take a page from the rulebook on office etiquette at the bar.  Happy Hour with your coworkers isn’t the same as a night of debauchery with your closest buddies.  Sure, you can still have fun; but bear in mind that your most important relationship with these people is your professional relationship, and that you should act accordingly.

Select a Designated Driver

To ensure that you arrive back at work safe and sound the next morning, nominate someone as a designated driver.  This is a great option for someone who wants to tag along but doesn’t want to feel the pressure to drink.  This person can also help mediate any rowdy coworkers or stop them in their tracks before they do any damage to their careers.


Happy Hours are a fun pastime meant to take away some of the stress from the daily grind.  So don’t do yourself a disservice by adding more stress to your day from acting like a fool around your office mates.  Just do a little planning ahead, act sensibly, and the rest will follow.

The Doostang Team advises you to drink responsibly… and have a great day!

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Doostang News October 11: How to Answer “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

Real Estate Investment Analyst, Los Angeles, CA
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While many people leave their previous positions simply in search of another opportunity or for logistical reasons, such as moving or needing to cut back on hours, others leave for slightly more complicated reasons, such as an abrasive boss or an unfulfilled promise.  Whatever your reason, there are certain ways to talk about this aspect of your job history so that your experience helps, not hurts you.

Don’t Badmouth Your Employer

This seems obvious, but sometimes people are tempted to put down their previous employer in order to justify a move that seems less logical otherwise.  Some individuals feel that dealing with a bad employer is a character building experience, one that sets them up to succeed more in their next position.  While this may be true, the best candidate in an interviewer’s eyes is someone who can maintain their grace and composure in a less than perfect situation.  When you digress in your interview and start bringing up the bad blood that existed between you and your former boss, you might come across as irrational or vindictive, two qualities that raise red flags for a hiring manager.  Try to speak more diplomatically, focusing on how the company culture may not have been an ideal fit.  You might bring up how you had a different outlook than your boss, but this is still a bit risky – you don’t want to come off as obstreperous.  When you can, try to stick to more neutral points, such as the fact that you achieved all you could at your old job and now you are ready to move on to something new.

Don’t Talk About the Negative Aspects of Your Last Job

Try not to focus on how things weren’t going well at your last job.  Again, you don’t want the hiring manager to associate any negativity with you – it’s important to keep the tone of the interview as positive as possible.  It’s even advisable not to talk about how you weren’t feeling challenged enough, even though this implies that you are ready to tackle tougher projects.  That’s because you don’t want to convey that you won’t stick around when you get bored; there will be times when an employer will need you to complete a project that you may not be excited about.  Overall, try not to come across as someone who won’t be reliable if the job is less than perfect from time to time – you want to seem as flexible as possible.

Don’t Dwell on the Question

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t spend an inordinate amount of time discussing why you left your old job, but rather, should focus on why you want to enter this new one.  The less time you devote to the matter, the less the hiring manager will think about it, and the smaller the odds that your answer will raise any eyebrows.  Simply explain how you are ready to start an exciting, new chapter in your life and that you’re very happy for the opportunity to consider a position like the one they are offering.

When it comes down to it, the main reason hiring managers ask why you left your last position is to figure out if there is anything that they should be wary of in your past.  If you don’t give them any reason to question your integrity or work ethic, but instead focus on how excited you are about the job at hand, this tricky question should have little bearing on your chances of getting the job!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News September 6: Tips for New Employees

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The first day jitters end pretty much with the first day on the job, and the nervousness you feel about being in a new place dissipates pretty quickly after that. It’s easy then to cut corners and fall into habits that you see around you – things that the seasoned veterans of the company do without blinking an eye. But even though you may have the same level of responsibility as your coworkers, there is still a certain etiquette that you must follow while you are new on the job. Consider these pointers:

Connect with Your Boss

While many of your coworkers may embark on projects or make decisions without running them by their superior, you should make sure to check in with your boss when you are doing these things. You may find out pretty quickly that your boss actually likes when the employees take initiative without being asked; but until you do, assume that you should keep your boss in the loop at all times. You might think that you’re making the correct decision on something, but you’re still new and you don’t know if your boss has certain policies on things or if there are exceptions to rules.

Don’t Get Distracted

You may find that you work in a very easygoing office environment when you show up on day one, but this does not mean that you should take as many liberties as you see your coworkers doing. These people have been with the company longer than you and they have proven their value over time. Without a track record to back you up, you may just look like you’re wasting time.

Stay Positive

Even though your coworkers will probably want to put on a good show for the “new guy”, you’ll oftentimes encounter complaining or gossiping. While you may be equally stressed out about showing up to work on a certain day, avoid broadcasting this to the rest of the office like some of your peers might be doing. Try to act graciously about being there, and make it a point to be friendly to everyone – even the people that get on your nerves from the very outset.

While all workers are created equal in an office environment, as the newbie, you don’t have equal right to get distracted, act negatively, or take off on your own. So focus on the work at hand and the office relationships you need to cultivate, and the rest will follow eventually.

Welcome to the club,

The Doostang Team

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