Firing calls for delicate explanation
By Andrea Kay
I thought I had heard all the reasons that people get fired from their jobs. Then I wrote about the humiliation of being fired, and dozens of you wrote to tell me your stories.
There's the person from Wisconsin who was fired for wearing improper shoes and taking eight-minute bathroom breaks. The Alabama man who didn't meet his sales quota, the Florida employee who didn't come to work because a hurricane was about to hit, the worker who lost her temper, and the one who blurted out something inappropriate to a boss she calls "a Hitler." The person who refused to do something unethical, the worker accused of flashing another employee, and those of you who were accused of lying on applications or falsifying time sheets.
You may have been at fault or not. You may be sorry for what you did or not. But you all are without a job and frantic about what to tell the next potential employer.
There is not enough room here to answer you all. And there is no pat answer that will work for everyone. You must come up with your own rationale to help an employer understand that you're not going to be a problem child.
But I can give you four guidelines to use when thinking through what you will say in response to the question, "Why did you leave your last job?"
1. Put this in perspective. You are the one worried about "how it's going to look." The employer doesn't have to know how upsetting this was. Relax and realize that getting fired happens to nearly everyone. Most interviewers will understand if you explain without accusing or whining.
2. Don't make negative comments about the company, such as "The company didn't know what it was doing." And don't use the word "fired." Say, "The circumstances that led to my leaving were ... "
3. Respond with artfully chosen words such as: "I like to spend time building relationships. My job required me to move quickly from one sale to the next and focused only on quotas. The company and I both decided it wasn't a good match."
Or, "There was a very specific set of circumstances that led to my leaving. I was with my company four years. It was a good experience. New management came in and I was asked to do a job I wasn't qualified to do. I tried to comply but didn't feel I was serving our customers well and became unhappy. When I discussed it with the new manager, he said it would be best if I left."
4. Learn from what happened. If this has occurred before, something is probably up with you not everyone else. Before you think about what you're going to say, think about how you may need to change. If your explanation is just words you've worked out, as convincing as you are, odds are the next situation won't work out either.