As a result of being let go, you’re now in between jobs, scrolling through your emails, and you come across the message you’ve been waiting for: the Human Resources director at the company you’d love to work for told you that you might be a great fit and that they’d love to interview you. Excitement envelops you, and you begin to prepare for the interview that could land you your dream job- and get you back on your feet.
Of course, simply landing an interview is no guarantee that you’ll be a fit, and whenever you interview without being able to say you’re currently employed, chances are you’re going to have to address how and why your last job ended.
There are a few obvious bad ideas here. Decrying your previous boss (or the upper management at the company that let you go) throws up a neon red flag to your interviewer that you’re the antithesis of a team player and like to blame others for your own mistakes. Being less than truthful with your interviewer may seem like a good way to go if you don’t think they’ll ever catch your fib, but sooner or later they usually do- and that could be grounds for your dismissal from this job, too, which places you right back at square one.
So what should you do when the subject of your termination from your last job comes up? How should you address it? Here are our three strongest pieces of advice.
Know Your Prior Company’s Policy On The Matter
Companies don’t like being sued by former employees for giving a bad reference when contacted by other companies looking to hire them More often than not if the company you want to work for next contacts the company you used to work for to find out what happened, they’re going to get a neutral reference that just includes the dates of employment and maybe a highlight or two of the person’s time there.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out to them to find out what they’re going to say if they are contacted, or even ask them in the same conversation in which you’re informed that you’re being let go. You and your former company likely don’t see eye to eye on many things if they’re letting you go, but the one thing you have to agree with them on is how you’ll talk about your separation in a job interview with a future company. Failure to do so could lead to a laundry list of problems, including not getting the job or potentially even being sued for defamation.
Address It Yourself, And Don’t Wait For Your Interviewer To Do It
As difficult as this may be, you can earn yourself some bonus points with your interviewer by being the one to broach the subject. This demonstrates to your potential hiring manager that not only do you not look to deflect blame for mistakes but that you’re an upstanding individual who won’t try to hide things- and that you’ll carry this integrity into your new job. For as hard as it is to address being let go, there are few easier ways to build instant trust with an interviewer than this.
It just may so happen that your competition for this job features other qualified candidates who have also made mistakes at prior jobs that led to their termination, and how you address your respective situations could be the tiebreaker in the hiring manager’s mind.
Be Truthful, But Spin It Into a Positive
Unless you were fired for cause as a result of doing something morally foul and repugnant, such as siphoning or misappropriating thousands of company dollars, it’s generally best to tell your interviewer the truth: that things didn’t work out, and you are now looking for an even better opportunity to advance your professional career. However, you’ve got to be very careful with your choice of language here. “It just didn’t work out,” and “I just wasn’t a fit anymore,” are often euphemisms for something else, and could hint at some issues with your ability to build and maintain professional relationships.
Instead, we recommend being honest, explaining what happened, and then explaining what you’re learned, how you’ve grown as an individual, and why the experience will make you better at this next job. If you don’t and leave anything up to your interviewer’s interpretation, you’re at the mercy of the opinion they form of you with the information that they do have- and more often than not, it’s not going to be positive.
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