Wondering what to say when a potential employer asks you why you left your last job during an interview? If you left on good terms or are still in the job, here are some good ways to answer.
BUT … if you were fired, then you’ll need a slightly different approach. Being fired, although it happens to the best of us, can put a hiring team on alert. So it pays to think ahead about your answer.
First, a story about a billionaire who was fired many years ago
You may have heard of Bloomberg L.P., the huge financial conglomerate, providing financial news and information, and founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Why am I telling you this?
Michael Bloomberg was fired in 1981 by a financial firm called Salomon Brothers, a company that ironically no longer exists. Meanwhile, Mike is worth about $30 billion. Not bad for a guy who was kicked to the curb!
What you need to know about being fired
Before you even think about how to answer interview questions about what happened, I want you to really know that being fired is not the end of your career. Or even a career stopper … if you handle it well.
As I said, being fired happens to the best of us. You need to know that – and really believe that you are still just as capable and talented as people who have not been fired. You just have to be able to explain it in a way that casts you in the best light!
And now … how to answer why you were fired from last job
Although being fired is not a deal breaker, you need to find a way to answer that doesn’t raise even more red flags to the people interviewing you. Some points to remember when coming up with an answer:
- Be as honest and sincere as possible. You don’t need to go into details – and certainly want to avoid anything that will make you look like a bad hire – but mistakes happen. And so do mismatches in skills.
- If you did something wrong, tell it in a way that shows you learned from the experience. If you can point to things you’ve done since then that show learning and growth, even better.
- If your boss felt you didn’t have what it takes to do the job or just didn’t fit in and that’s why you were fired, then be prepared to show why this new job is far better for you. If you can think of things you’ve done well in the past that the new job requires (and especially ones that references can vouch for), then aim the conversation toward that.
- Remember that one person’s rock is another person’s gem. If they called you in, they see something in you that they are definitely interested in. So believe in yourself.
- Do your best to address the situation that led to your being fired, and then move on as smoothly and quickly as possible to what you can do for the new employer. Again, use examples of your successes.
- And whatever you do … don’t blame the former employer. Even if they were AWFUL. Employers want people who can face a situation, take responsibility where needed, and move on to the future. Blaming and bad-mouthing in an interview will just make you look bad.
A few more thoughts
Please don’t let the past keep you from moving on. We all have done things that we are not proud of. Or dealt with impossible people. Or been one of those impossible people!
Most successful people have failed. The mark of truly successful people is that they know how to dust themselves off and move on, focusing on who they are and what they can accomplish from this moment forward.
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