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Have you ever been fired?

To answer this question, first take a look at how two job candidates answered it during their interviews.

Person 1 – Negative:
“My original boss and I got along well, she was very professional. But when the new boss arrived it was clear from day one that we wouldn’t get along. Our personalities were at odds, and he kept changing direction and goals. One day we were all out for one thing, then the next we were all out for the complete opposite. I’ve never had a problem with a boss before then, but this guy was a real dud.”

This is a negative way to describe the situation. Saying bad things about a former boss or employer reflects badly on you, as a complainer, rather than on the boss or employer – the interviewer doesn’t know them and doesn’t care about their shortcomings.

Take a look at how this person described a similar situation.

Person 2 – Positive:
“My firing came after a merger. Suddenly two very different office cultures with very different ways of doing things were forced together. My new boss and I didn’t see eye to eye on some things, so eventually he fired me. I know I had something to do with the communication problem, as did my new boss. I learned from that situation, and now looking back would have done things differently. But I can’t change the past, I can only use that experience in the future.”

Not only did this person take responsibility and sound more professional (less of a “whiner”,) but indicated that they now have the experience to avoid, in the future, the problem that led to the firing.

Take steps to prepare for this question.

• Write a script – No matter the reason for the firing, write it down along with how you’d answer this question based on that situation. Read it out loud, not only to yourself but to someone else who can offer advice during a mock interview. Specifically ask for feedback on your tone, body language (including eye contact,) and perceived level of comfort as you answer this question. This feedback will help you improve your answer and how you present it.
• References – Know what your former employer, the one that fired you, will say about you and the situation. Your answer should match theirs as far as the situation. If they say you never showed up for work and you say they fired you because you complained about a lack of hours, the interviewer won’t have a positive reaction to your answer.
• Lying – One lie leads to another and you never know who the interview might know at a former company. If you don’t lie, you don’t have to remember the false facts.
• Get Perspective – People are fired every day. It may not mean the person or the company is bad, it may just be because of a difference in styles or a bad fit.

This person was honest. “Of course, why do you think I’m looking for a job?”

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