Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Explaining a Job Termination

I was fired abruptly after working for a company for seven years, after just having been promoted. I don't know how to answer the job posting that states specifically "Have you ever been fired or forced to resign."

I am sending the explanation below but I am not receiving any responses from potential employers, who I should be well qualified for. I don't know if my explanation (below) sends up all sorts of red flags or how else should I answer it. I would prefer to speak in front of an interview panel about the issue.

I would appreciate any advice.

Here’s the explanation I’ve been sending:

To Whom It may concern,
I was terminated from my position at xxx on xxx 2007. The termination was a complete surprise since I was just given exciting new responsibilities with far greater impact on the organization. The new position would have started on xxx or xxxx 2007 after I completed the training of my replacement. Additionally, my performance reviews were positive and the shops I managed were running well, exceeding financial targets and client satisfaction was high. I had awarded and managed successfully many contracts, both small and large with very little trouble over seven years with xxx.

However one contract was troublesome. I was terminated for an incident related to an employee of mine who supervised this contract and his alleged unethical behavior related to a xxx. Management felt I should have been more involved with the award of the sub contract, its contractor and had better supervised the employee. I apologized for my lack of oversight to upper management, to the client and to my supervisor and moved on. Although many of my colleagues felt the actions were too harsh for an individual who had achieved a lot of success in a very tough environment over seven years, I did not challenge the action.

I just started working for a private firm in x. I would both enjoy the challenges of performing the role as the xxxx Manager for you and the opportunity to move back to that area.

I would be happy to chat about this incident further.

by John West Hadley, Career Search & Career Enhancement Counselor, “Helping Job Seekers Who Are Frustrated With Their Search”

There are twp aspects of your answer that may be raising flags:
1) It’s a long answer, which increases the focus on the termination. Remember the old adage “He doth protest too much.” The simpler the answer (at this stage in the process) the better.
2) Your ending “I just started working…opportunity to move back” could create problems. This could be read as a lack of loyalty (you just started a new job and are already looking again), commitment (you’re not giving the new job a chance), or even a level of desperation (I took this job even though I knew it wasn’t what I wanted and would keep looking for something else from day one.

An alternative, simpler answer might be along the lines of this:
After x years of awarding and managing $y contracts, consistently exceeding company financial targets and achieving high client satisfaction, I was terminated for the alleged unethical behavior of a subordinate. I would be happy to provide complete details in an interview.

The other thing to consider is that whenever you have a potential competitive “defect” to overcome (e.g., lack of or lower level credential, lesser educational degree, few years of related experience), it is really easy for you to be screened out when you seek jobs via normal ‘front door’ channels. You should do everything in your power to get in front of people face to face before you get to an official application for a job, so you can have a chance to impress and interest them, and warm up the connection. Then, when they offer to consider you for a particular job, or to connect you to someone who has an appropriate opening, you have a better chance of getting past the standard applicant screening process.

For more on how to conduct a really effective networking campaign, visit this page on my website and read the article on Career Search Networking.

You might also be interested in my Career Tips email newsletter. You can check out the contents of past issues on my website.

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
Following is an excerpt from Advice for an Older Worker by Seymour Jobs. Although your question does not indicate that you are an older worker, I think Seymour’s advice is relevant to your situation, especially once you get to the interview and are asked about your previous job termination.

Here you go:

… Notwithstanding the actual reason in your specific situation, how one communicates the situation surrounding their separation can negatively or positively impact a prospective employers decision to hire a candidate or not. Speak positively about your previous positions and employers. Highlight your successes and be honest during the interview if it was due to a performance issue. For example, your productivity in sales was lacking, therefore they let you go. Explain what you have since done to bolster your skills and abilities to ensure you are able to compete successfully in a sales environment. This may include completing some seminars, reading and research on the innovations in the industry, mentoring with other sales professionals in the business to fine tune your selling skills, or possibly taking courses in sales and marketing etc...

Job Lounger, do you have a question? Email ( it to me and I’ll post your question and an expert’s answer here in The Job Lounge.


Sam Diener said...

I thought this post was "" Great, and USEFUL, post for me Susan.

Samuel D.

Espresso Machines said...

The bottom line is, the employee's results must meet with the employer's requirements.