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The job interview has gone quite well, and then they ask the dreaded question: “Tell me why you left your last job.” And you have to find a way to explain that you didn’t “leave”; you actually got fired. Your brain goes into overdrive wondering how on earth you can explain this without looking incompetent, and why would they hire someone who got fired, and if only you could make them see….

But you can. Granted, nobody wants to have to bring up a firing in an interview, but if you have to, you can minimize the damage if you do so carefully.

  • Assess the situation honestly. If you were let go because of downsizing, that termination may have come about no matter how well you did. However, if your termination came about as a result of something you had control over, think about it honestly. Before walking into an interview, figure out where you may have been at fault. Be honest about what happened: Your response will come across as sincere to a potential employer.
  • Prepare your answer. See if you can come with a positive, a brief negative, and end with what you’ve learned/how you will do things differently. Example: “I came on board with the understanding that the job had certain duties. As time went on, I realized that we had some communication problems and my duties would be different than I had originally thought. After discussion with my supervisor, we realized I wasn’t the right fit, and I left on good terms. Since then, I’ve focused on my professional goals and skill set, and I’ve worked to improve my communication skills.”
  • Keep it brief. You don’t need to say too much more than that for an answer; the interviewer simply wants to know why you left your last job, and you don’t need to give an entire story as your response. Practice your answer until you’re ready to say it calmly and keep it to the point.
  • Avoid trash talk. Never say anything disparaging about your former employer, even if you feel justified. The previous management may have treated you poorly, but remember that the people interviewing you may think more along the lines of management than staff simply because of their positions. Plus, you never know who knows whom, and making a negative comment about a specific person can come back to haunt you if your potential employer knows them, either professionally or socially. It makes you look like a complainer — so keep your comments broad and don’t zero in on any specific people.

Explaining a firing can actually work to your advantage by showing a potential employer that you recognized your errors, learned from them, and moved on. For help with the tougher interview questions, reach out to the experienced Simi Valley recruiting team at PrideStaff Thousand Oaks today.

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