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Fired? How To Handle A Previous Termination Or Job Loss During Interviews
Nimish Thakkar, MS, MBA, CCMC, CPRW, SaiCareers.com, New York
January 05, 2006

"You are fired!" the infamous line made popular by Donald Trump through his TV show "The Apprentice" (2004), remains a major fear factor for most of the employed workforce. Almost no one (masochists excluded) wants to face the axe (get fired). The undesirable happens, though, and you, a valued employee, are suddenly presented with a pink slip (fired). (Check with your attorney if you were wrongfully terminated.)

The agony of job searching all over again is further aggravated by the fear of facing interview questions about the sudden termination. Relax. The right preparation and attitude can help you handle the toughest interview questions. We outline, here, a few tips for handling the situation.

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Stop playing the blame game; accept the situation and get on
The first thing you need to do is to stop blaming yourself and others. The job loss may have nothing to do with you or your abilities; often corporations, under extreme pressure from stakeholders and investors, resort to mass layoffs as an easy way to improve bottom line performance. Why should you take blame for that? You will perform much better at interviews -- and otherwise -- if you just accept the situation and make attempts to move further.

Under the prevailing economic environment, mass layoffs are not uncommon. Most employers are aware of this and would understand your situation.

Establish your value
The employer would be very reluctant to let you pass if you have done a great job at establishing your value -- through the resume, cover letter, examples of previous results and accomplishments, interview responses, etc. -- and at demonstrating the potential benefits of hiring you. After all, why would an employer want to let go of a potentially valuable employee?

Neutralize the situation; start with a positive response First, donít volunteer information unless asked. If asked about the job loss or termination, though, be concise and try to use language that tactfully neutralizes the issue without compromising integrity (never lie).

In response to a question about the termination, you could attempt to start your answer on a positive note: ďThe previous month, I was a recipient of XYZ award for performing at XYZ% over benchmarks ÖĒ Then slowly introduce the job loss without hurting yourself.

If you are able to deliver smoothly, you could also describe how you have improved since your last termination (if you were singled out and fired). When unsure about your response, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

Be honest
Since companies can always check with your previous employers, it is very important to be honest. You could neutralize or minimize the impact of the situation but never lie.

Avoid vandalizing your former supervisor or employer
As much as you would like to vent your true feelings and anger, an interview is not the appropriate environment for such behavior. Speaking ill about your previous employer may backfire on you, so be careful. Be as positive as you possibly can.

Be consistent
A job loss can be very stressful, causing candidates to deliver contradictory responses. Some interviewers are very tactful and ask the same questions (worded differently) at different times during the interview. Be consistent.

Practice your answers
If possible, practice your interview responses with a professional or [knowledgeable] friend (who is qualified enough to provide constructive feedback). Donít confuse practice with memorizing; some candidates try to memorize answers to common questions. You could rehearse your responses a few times, but try not to memorize.

Donít burn the bridges
Try to leave your previous employer on a positive note. Circumstances often change, causing employers to re-hire previously laid-off employees. If you leave on a positive note, the previous employer may also help you with networking contacts, job search assistance, strong references (if you left on positive terms, they might say great things about you), etc.

Build strong references
Selecting references who would say positive things about you is very important, but that wouldnít necessarily limit a potential employer to only those references. If you need to know what your references would say about you, there are professional firms who specialize in checking your references.

Most important: donít be discouraged; you are not alone in all this. If you have established your value, written a great resume, networked well, and launched an aggressive job search campaign, there will be plenty of opportunities to move ahead.

 

Related Articles:
Sample Interview Questions
Interviews
Free Job Interview Tips
How To Improve Your Interviewing Skills

 

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