More from Success
Here’s how to pitch yourself for a job even if you’re not 100% qualified
How you bring up a termination in a job interview is important though: You don’t want to lie, but you also should avoid dwelling on it.
“You don’t want to make the separation a liability that a hiring manager will be taking on,” said Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.”
Make peace with it
The first step of moving on from a termination is coming to terms with it. Taking stock of the situation and understanding why it happened will help you better explain it in a job interview.
Was it a performance issue? Personality conflict? New management? Or was it a downsizing that couldn’t be prevented?
“You shouldn’t define yourself by a mistake or a setback. It is not career defining,” said John Roccia, a career specialist at career coaching firm Ama La Vida.
Be prepared for it to come up
While you shouldn’t be the one to bring it up, you should be prepared for the interviewer to ask why you’re no longer at your previous job.
The key is to be confident with your response: maintain good posture and eye contact, watch your tone and don’t become fidgety or look uncomfortable.
“It’s not just what you say, but how you say it,” said Barry Drexler, an interview coach. “As soon as you start rambling and get nervous, you are giving it life and bringing attention to it.”
Keep it positive
Even if there are still some bad feelings about the firing, stay positive and keep the discussion forward focused.
“You shouldn’t be the first one to advertise anything negative,” said Roccia. “You should be moving toward something.”
Try to avoid using words like “fired” or “terminated,” as they can sound harsh. Instead, Cohen suggested using words and phrases like: “separated,” “an involuntary reduction in workforce,” “my position was eliminated.” “They are all euphemisms for ‘they fired me’ but they sound softer and gentler,” he said.
Bad-mouthing and blaming your former boss only makes you look bad.
“They are trying to manage their culture. If you give the impression that you would be argumentative right from the start, that is not a good sign,” said Roccia.
Be brief, but honest
You want to keep your answer short and concise, but also factual.
“If the topic does come up, tell them what happened at a high level,” said Wanda Kiser, president and CEO of Elite Resume Writing Services. “Explain what you learned from the experience and then get back on topic and talk about the value you could offer based on your competencies, what was in the job posting and what makes you a great candidate. Give some measurable accomplishments.”
If the interviewer continues to push to learn more about the situation, stay on the positive path.
If the firing was related to performance issues, Cohen suggested saying that you’ve always been a high performer, but you were thrown into a situation where you didn’t have the right toolkit.
Then take the time to explain what you’ve done to rectify any skills gap and continue your training to show you learned from the past.
You could also mention that the position wasn’t the right fit and that your performance wasn’t where it needed to be because you weren’t passionate about the job, recommended Roccia. “Then say you decided you would only focus your job hunt on companies you are truly passionate about. That shows you have learned and taken responsibility.”
Use a short stint to your advantage
If you were at a job for less than a year, you can be a little more frank about the situation.
“Say, ‘when I joined, it was a great opportunity, but it turned out not to be the right place for me, so I am moving on from that,’” said Drexler.