The interview is going great. You and the hiring manager seem to be hitting it off, having an engaging, professional and personable conversation. And then they ask that question, “Why did you leave your last job?” If you’re simply changing careers or looking to start fresh with a different company, your answer should roll off the tongue with ease. If you were terminated, however, answering this question can be quite a challenge without the proper preparation. No one enjoys talking about getting fired from a job, but the only way to truly get over such an episode, is to own up to it as best as you can.
While there can be a variety of reasons for your termination (some of which were out of your hands), it doesn’t make answering this question feel any less daunting. Regardless of the reason, keep these four things in mind to be properly prepared whenever you are asked.
Come to terms with your circumstances
Whether you liked your position or not, being terminated is a huge blow to the ego. The best way to make sure it will not happen again is to be honest with yourself about the situation. Take a few days or weeks to think critically (and objectively) about why you were fired and be sure to recognize and acknowledge how you specifically played a role in the end result. It is imperative that you come to terms with it before going back into the workforce. Without acceptance, you run the risk of your emotions getting the best of you during interviews. Once you’ve gathered your thoughts and emotions, the bounce back into the job search should be seamless.
Fact: everyone tends to embellish things in their favor — whether it be a simple story amongst friends and family or, in this case, with a potential future employer. While it may be tempting to bend the truth about getting fired to come off as a better candidate, these kinds of situations have a way of catching up with you. If an employer is truly considering hiring you, background checks (including your professional references) will tend to reveal if everything you’ve detailed during your interviews add up.- When prompted to answer, “Why did you leave your last job,” be as truthful and succinct as possible in your response. Long-winded responses tend to raise red flags for a hiring manager as it may indicate you have something to hide, or you aren’t telling the truth. Honesty is the best policy, especially when in these situations.
There’s a lesson to be learned after every defeat. In the case of getting fired from a job, that lesson can come in several ways depending on your situation. Whether you’ve changed certain processes to catch last-minute errors or figured out the best way to deal with difficult coworkers or employers, hiring managers want to be convinced that you won’t make the same mistakes again. Don’t settle for simply explaining the problem to your interviewer; instead, provide them with a thorough solution of how that problem came to fruition and the things you’ve learned and improvements that you’ve made that may apply to your new role. These growth examples are key.
Don’t bad mouth your previous employer
If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it! It’s easy to place the blame on your employer. However, an interview for another role is not the appropriate time to vent about it. Bad mouthing your previous employer is a slippery slope and, before you know it, your integrity, composure, and credibility are compromised. Flipping the negativity into a positive outlook where you hold yourself accountable not only shows growth but is an admirable attribute that could give you that edge that employers are looking for.