Getting fired from a job almost always provokes mixed emotions; you may be shocked, dismayed if you were let go over an honest mistake, or alternately, relieved if you had been laboring under a superior with unrealistic expectations for months or years. No matter your specific situation you must face the same imminent hurdle as everyone else who’s ever been fired: Figuring out how to handle your next job interview. Interviewing after being fired is a delicate process, one wherein honesty, diplomacy, and professionalism must be precisely balanced.
If you’re struggling to understand how you ought to present yourself and your situation to a potential employer, the 7 job interview tips below should help you to develop successful post-termination interview tactics:
- Deal with your emotions before tackling the interview.
It’s inevitable that the question of why you left your last job will come up during interviews, and if your emotions are still running hot, your answer is almost guaranteed to go over poorly. You may commit a major interview faux pas like speaking negatively about your former workplace, you may give the impression that you cannot think calmly under pressure, or you may make your work ethic look less than admirable.
As such, it’s vital to work through the emotions connected to being fired before you attempt a job interview. Talk to a friend or career counselor and don’t hold back feelings of shame, sadness, anger, etc. Work it out so that you can start your post-termination interviews with a clean slate, ready to discuss your dismissal with frankness and positivity.
- Get your confidence back.
Being fired can leave deep wounds in a person’s self-esteem, even if the termination was unfair and the employee in question knows they didn’t really do anything terribly wrong. Alas, we can’t walk into job interviews with these scars showing; most interviewers decide who they will hire within just 3 minutes, largely based on how confident and professional that person seems. Things like assertive body language, eye contact, and action-oriented language make a huge difference during the interview process.
Prior to tackling an interview after you have been fired, you should, therefore, do something to rebuild your confidence: Volunteer, for example, or participate in a sport or hobby you excel at. Volunteering has the bonus of padding your resume so that your termination is not the most recent item on it.
- Don’t speak ill of your former employer.
Yes, this can be a challenge if he or she really did unfairly fire you, but it’s necessary to be polite and positive about your last boss no matter what he or she did. Speaking ill of your former employer will not show your interviewer that your dismissal was not your fault; it just makes you look unprofessional (and will likely make your interviewer concerned that you will speak badly of his or her company as well).
- Don’t lie.
While it’s important to frame the facts in as positive a light as possible, one should never outright lie about what occurred surrounding a termination. Research reveals that over 70 percent of interviewers can detect a lie immediately (whether expressed vocally or written into a resume), and most will absolutely refuse to hire anyone they catch trying to falsify the details of their work experience. Ergo, you should absolutely be honest about what happened—but refer to the point below for tips on how to candidly explain your termination.
- Practice explaining your dismissal.
In interviews, semantics matter. While you should be direct when talking about what happened at your prior place of employment, there’s a world of difference between saying “I was let go because they gave me too much work to do and I couldn’t handle it,” and saying, “After my colleague left, my boss added her workload to mine, and I struggled to keep up. However, I learned the importance of being extremely organized from that experience and have since developed better time-management skills.” The latter response adds context to the situation without speaking negatively about the interviewee’s prior workplace. It also shows that the interviewee has thought carefully about his or her role in the termination and is serious about doing better.
- Take responsibility.
Another important aspect of the response above is that the interviewee does not try to avoid taking the blame for being dismissed—even though the situation was somewhat unfair. He or she is willing to look at his or her mistakes honestly, own up to them, and learn from them, which conveys an image of maturity and professionalism.
Remember, your prospective employer isn’t looking for perfection; he or she is looking for accountability and problem-solving skills, so if you show said traits, you should be able to make a graceful recovery from your termination.
- Be positive, then bring things back to the present.
Above all else, once you have respectfully answered your interviewer’s question about why you left your last job, it’s important to steer the conversation in a positive direction and bring the focus back to the present. The less time you spend talking about your termination, the less of a lasting impression it will make, and rightly so—being fired is an unfortunate occurrence, but it’s not who you are.
Now that you understand how to interview successfully after being fired are you ready to get back into the job search and start interviewing? If so, take a look at our open positions and see if they might be the perfect job for you. We conduct open interviews daily at all of our locations.