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

Investment Banking Analyst, New York, NY
Marketing Internship, San Francisco, CA
Investment Analyst, Boston, MA
Marketing Strategy Analyst, Shanghai, China
Jr. Trader, New York, NY

More recent jobs you might like…

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

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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

Real Estate Investment Analyst, Los Angeles, CA
Green Technology Associate, Philadelphia, PA
Investment Banking Analyst, Atlanta, GA
Search Marketing Analyst Intern, San Francisco, CA
Senior Associate, Boston, MA

More recent jobs you might like…

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

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail