Friday, May 18, 2007

Surprise Job Termination

I was fired two months ago from my job of seven years. The day it happened my supervisor walked up to my desk and told me I was being let go. I was very surprised, so I just packed up and left without asking for a specific reason for my termination. I'm really frustrated with trying to explain why I've been fired when I go on interviews. This is what I have been saying:

“I was let go. The reason on my discharge paperwork stated ‘company terminate.’ I believe the reason was that there was a difference of opinion between my supervisor and me. I felt telephone customers were being put on hold for too long when they didn't want to leave a message for the person they were waiting to speak to. I understand some calls take longer than others to take care of, but it seemed this was a continuing issue with one of the departments I transferred calls to. My supervisor felt differently and I feel that is why I was let go. I take responsibility for my part in the way things turned out, and I won't make the same mistake again. Now I am ready to move on with a new perspective.”

Is this response making me look like a difficult employee? Should I even say that much since I am assuming why I was fired? Should I attempt to contact my previous supervisor and ask for a more specific reason? I'm not sure how he will react to me calling after two months has gone by already.

by Marc Effron, VP, Talent Management, Avon Products

Less is more in this situation. While your response isn’t necessarily making you look difficult, it isn’t helping your case. You are providing more detail than is needed and it could sound defensive to an interviewer. And, no, don’t attempt to contact your former supervisor since it’s very unlikely they’ll answer your question.

When you’re asked about your termination, your response should emphasize the positive aspects of your performance. Were you a top performer? Were there any performance measures used at that company on which you scored high? Any company training courses you did well in? Any positive customer feedback?

Take any positive feedback, summarize it in 30 seconds and then use that as the lead in to your answer. For example, “I was employed at XYZ company for seven years and consistently scored in the top half of all customer service representatives in customer evaluations. Twice I was praised by my supervisor for outstanding performance in handling calls. So I was surprised that I was let go without being provided a reason. I can assure you that there was no illegal or unethical conduct on my part.”

If you can’t emphasize any positive aspects of your performance, it would be best to simply say that you were let go without any notice or information about the reason. Again, reassure the prospective employer that you weren’t doing anything illegal or unethical. If this type of dismissal was common at your company, that would be very helpful for your interviewer to know.

Make sure you are exceptionally well prepared to describe all of the benefits you can deliver to your prospective employer. It might help to review the interview questions section of The Job Lounge.

Hope that helps!

Marc Effron is Vice President, Talent Management for Avon Products. He has authored two books (including Leading the Way) and numerous articles about leadership. He is a frequent speaker at industry events.

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
You’ll find more advice in line with Marc’s at How to Do a Job Interview After Being Fired from Your Last Job.

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