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Interviewing to get hired, after being fired

Published:Sunday | February 10, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith

Glenford Smith, Career Writer

Q: I read your article about being terrorised by your boss. I had a similar experience and it was as if I could do no right. It got so bad that I wanted to resign, but I have two small kids and I did not want to leave my job before finding another. It would have been better had I resigned because my boss ended up firing me unjustly, now I am having difficulty finding a permanent job. I've been to four interviews in a three-month period. When I mentioned that I was fired you could see the change in the prospective employers. What's your advice for future interviews? - N. Sinclair

A: There's a well-known saying which goes: 'Hindsight is 20-20 vision.' So, looking back, it might seem that it would have been better you had resigned. That's not the case, however — you made the correct decision at the time.

It would have been irresponsible of you to just quit, with no job prospects and two young mouths to feed. So, rest assured, you did the right thing.

Being asked about why you were fired from your previous job is not as hard a question to answer as many interviewees believe. Consider that in all likelihood, at least one interviewer has been fired in his or her career.

Also, despite it appearing that interviewers reflexively attribute fault to fired employees, that's not the fact. Interviewers are usually quite open about what happened. They give you the opportunity to tell them. It's up to you whether your firing becomes 'the' deciding factor in your interview or not. It all depends upon how you respond.

Here are two basic rules to observe: Don't bad-mouth your former employer and tell the truth.

Saying negative things about your former company and boss marks you as a bitter and resentful potential problem employee. Instead, highlight what you learned and contributed without exaggeration or insincerity.

Resist any urge to deflect the question, attribute blame or cover up. Instead, give an objective, succinct but adequate account of what happened. Avoid expressing bitterness and rancour. And bear in mind that the interviewers can easily check the facts.


Explain the situation from your employer's perspective, showing your understanding of why you were fired - from their point of view. If your firing was unjustified in your view, briefly state why, candidly, but conceding why, from their point of view, you were fired.

If you believe they had just cause to fire you, upon reflection, share what lesson you learned which will prove valuable in your next job.

In your answer, avoid using words which convey an excessively feisty, confrontational and disagreeable attitude. Potential employers aren't keen on employing self-appointed advocates with a chip on their shoulders where authority is concerned.

Whatever happens, don't get bogged down in the past. Finish your answer by emphasising why you are the best candidate for this particular job. This is what will ultimately be the deciding factor, once you've come clean about the reason behind your recent firing. I wish you all the best in your next job interview.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of a new book 'From Problems to Power: How to Win Over Worry and Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities'.