Dear Employment Specialist,
I was recently fired from my job as a customer service representative/receptionist at a large wholesale supplier company. I’m still in shock but have to jump back on the horse and overcome my fears of working in another job in my field which I love. So, I’m busy applying for work and started to have both telephone and face-to-face interviews (at least the resume is working!)
When the interviewer inquires about the reason I’m no longer at my last job, I am stumped with a suitable response which will not be used against me and exclude me from being hired! Please could you give me some suggestions.
Furiously Fired and Fearful
This is an excellent question; one I am often asked. Coaching job seekers on how answer difficult questions to help them eventually get that job offer is part of what employment specialists do.
From experience, I have found that when answering such a challenging question, honesty is the best policy. You have to figure out an answer which you can share comfortably, and make sure you sound articulate and stay calm, confident and clear. As the old saying goes “it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it”.
We always recommend that interviewees put themselves in the interviewer’s shoes, and read between the lines of the interview questions. When an employer asks “Why did you leave your last job?”, they are probably really thinking: “Are you going to bring me headaches? Do you have trouble getting along with people? Were you fired or did you quit? Did you have difficulties in your last position which may affect your ability to do the job here?”
Considering these concerns of employers, here are some suggested scripts to respond to such questions about your past job:
One helpful suggestion came from one of our experienced JVS Employment Counsellors, who recommended this script:
I was at my last job for a long time. I loved the work and the team. However I had a situation and I recognize that I made some mistakes. I took this as an invaluable opportunity to learn and grow. I acknowledge that I was wrong. The company is a great company and they do great work. I would like to move forward and find work in my field which uses my experience, skills, passions and education, and find a company where I can make a contribution, grow and continue to learn.
I also consulted with Steffen Allen, a Senior Recruiter at Zylog Systems (Canada) Ltd., a leading IT and Engineering consulting and staffing firm. Steffen is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) in corporate recruitment and consulting for Fortune 500 companies around the world. Steffen suggests that it is important to keep positive, to “turn a negative into a positive”, and recommends the following possible scripts:
“My job description changed. I was put into a new role which I could not do. I didn’t have the skills or experience to perform the new position. The learning curve was too steep for me. So, both I and the company parted ways on good terms. I took this as an opportunity to understand what skills I need to learn and have enrolled in a course to gain those skills for future opportunities.”
“The company was bought out and was going in another direction. There was a new management which took over. They had different goals than mine. So we parted ways on good terms.”
“The company’s goals changed and were not aligned with my goals. I parted ways on good terms with the management.”
The bottom line: if you are confronted in an interview with a difficult question about a past job, the best thing you can do is be prepared with an honest and responsible answer. Find a way to describe what happened that does not say anything negative about the former employer, and focuses instead on moving forward.
Good luck with your job search, FFF. I am sure that with some careful preparation, you will succeed in getting back onto the job market soon!
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