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Interviewing After You’ve Been Fired

So you got fired. It happens. 

This article does not talk about your legal rights, what to do next, or how to rebuild your self-esteem; instead, it focuses on how to handle the discussion around your termination in an interview. What to say and do as well as what not to.  

When looking to start over and start interviewing again, here is what you need to be mindful of so you don't mess up the interview: 

Be Mindful

If you're reading this post, chances are you're most likely a professional working within the software industry or at a technology startup. Whatever your role, communicating effectively is likely a big part of what you do. 

Whether it be communicating ideas, problem-solving, figuring out priorities and/or managing expectations with other team members and customers, having effective communication skills is a necessity. This skill will also serve you well as you begin to engage with recruiters and potential employers during the interview and hiring process. 

It is important to remember you’re not the first - even rockstars like Steve Jobs and Oprah have been fired before. Recruiters and Employers have all met and interviewed candidates who have at some point been fired. You are not the first. You will not be shocking anyone.

The key here is, to be honest, and thoughtful when explaining your employment history to interviewers. Leverage those great communication skills you’ve built throughout your career and the tips below to navigate through this somewhat uncomfortable, but not unformidable, topic: 

Advice on What to Do and Say:

Be Ready:

  • You're going to be asked, "What happened? Why did your employment end?" Be ready for it.
  • Start by jotting the main points down. Practice saying it. Find a friend and say it out loud.

Curate:

  • We suggested jotting down the words because it will force you to use fewer of them. No one wants to hear a long-winded story with painful details only you care about. Curate your message. 

Remove the Emotion:

  • Get comfortable telling the story to remove the emotion. Bitterness, resentment, anger, or even grief can resonate in the words we say.
  • Choose your words wisely. Own them. Be ready to speak to them calmly, like the professional you are.

Eye Contact:

  • The unfortunate thing about post-pandemic Zoom interviews is the limited ability to express oneself through body language.
  • Making and holding eye contact with the camera is a skill worth practicing. Eye contact communicates trust. 

Be Honest:  

  • If your interview results in an eventual offer, it's possible someone may want to validate your history with a background or reference check. 
  • Be sure what you share will be validated by your former employer.

 Be Insightful: 

  • If you were fired for performance reasons, what have you done to improve? What are you committed to developing? Do you have an "overcomer" story? 
  • Be ready to share how you are working to become better.

What NOT to Do or Say:

Other than not doing what we shared above, here are a few things not to say or do in an interview after you've been fired:

Don't Speak Negatively:

Don't Assume the Worst:

  • There is a job for everyone and for everyone there is a job. Sometimes it just takes a while to find it!

 

We hope this helps you ace your next interview!

If you are an employer struggling with employee performance, we encourage you to try these five steps to help distinguish between those employees who just need a helping hand versus those who need to go.