Friday, September 07, 2007

Explaining Job Termination in the Interview

I discovered The Job Lounge while looking for information on how to explain the reason for a past termination to a prospective employer. I've read many of the comments here and they are extremely helpful as is all of your journal. The one thread of advice I noticed was: "less is better". I have a job interview soon and the prospective employer is already aware of the previous termination. Here’s what I’ve planned to tell my prospective employer. In your opinion, am I offering too much information?

”First, I would like to say that my previous position was especially created for a co-worker of mine who then asked for an assistant and I was chosen. Until the time of my termination, I was the second highest performer in my area. The company was bought out and there were drastic changes in policy and procedure, as well as across the board layoffs and terminations. I was advised that my termination resulted from my being unable to keep up with the numbers, however I have always had a strong work ethic and will be an exemplary performer in my next position. I hope this will not cast a bad light on my image as a prospective employee.”


by Jeanne Knight, JCTC, CCMC, Career and Job Search Coach

Hi CJ,
You are so right to adopt the motto that “less is more”. So often interviewees say far more in an interview than they need to, which can signal a prospective employer to start digging even deeper. And then the interviewee starts sharing too many details of a situation and emptying all the skeletons in their closet. Not a good idea!

So in your case, I might recommend using as many words as you have in your response, but in the end, actually saying less about your termination than you have shared. In some ways your response sounds more apologetic than I would like it to. Saying that you “hope this will not cast a bad light on my image as a prospective employee” may cause a company to wonder if they should now view you in a bad light. Why give them the opportunity to even contemplate such a thought?

Because you haven’t shared the true, specific reason for your termination, I’ll have to go on what you’ve said above and rephrase it (taking a few liberties, admittedly!) as best I can. My goal is to make your response as much of a non-issue as possible. With that, consider the following:
“In (month/year) (name of company) was acquired, and as a result, there were several reorganizations, layoffs and some drastic changes in policies and procedures. As what often happens when a company is acquired, it was no longer the company I loved to work at. I used to be the second highest performer in my area, but when I left, I knew it was time to go as I just wasn’t keeping up with the numbers as much as I had in the past. So it really was time to leave. And I’m wanting to join an organization such as yours that values (hard work, respect and customer service). (You’ll want to fill in your own blanks here). I have an incredibly strong work ethic and I know I will be an exemplary performer in your organization.”
As you can see, I never state that you were actually terminated. It’s clear that you left and that there was something going on with the numbers. But why belabor the point? When you left, it was clearly time for you to leave, whether you left on your own or were asked to leave. So now, you’re ready to move on to a company where you can thrive and be successful.

So whether you use my exact words or not, hopefully this answer works for you and is something you’ll feel comfortable saying in an interview. If you say it with the right tone of voice (enthusiastic but humble) and a smile on your face, it should make your situation a non-issue.

Good luck!

Jeanne Knight is a certified Career Coach/Resume Expert who helps senior professionals and executives navigate career transitions. She offers career and job search coaching as well as resume writing services. She is also the creator of “10 Steps To Interviewing With Confidence”, a 60-minute DVD program that offers a step-by-step process for succeeding on interviews.


Anonymous said...

I am having an issue in explaining a termination for sick time abuse. It was later unfounded because i had provided the proper documentation. None-the-less, I did not feel comfortable staying there, feeling like I was being singled out because there was a new sheriff and many drastic changes with the policies and procedures. The union could have got my job back but i was no longer feeling my position and opted to leave as long as they did not fight my unemployment. Now I am currently applying for correctional positions and am having a hard time explaining the termination during the couple of interviews that I had and I think it hurt me because sicktime and attendance is very important in that field.


M. Fought

Kye Morgan said...

Hi Anonymous. I have a very similar issue and I am preparing for an interview next week. My thought is just to state that I had personal issues, since resolved, that interfered with my work life. Those issues are long since resolved and I am looking forward to meeting my next challenge. I hope you give me the opportunity to do that.

Anonymous said...

I was fired from a bank and have been unable to find a job for over a year, I was the teller manager and I was fired due to a cash transfer between a colleague and I, how can I explain this, bc apparently the way I am explaining it, is getting me nowhere!

Anonymous said...

I am having bad luck finding a new job after being terminated from a bank for a large out of balance, it was a cash transfer error, between myself (the teller Manager) and a teller, on a busy day and bc i was the manager, i was terminated, even though their was no "real" loss, I was fired, I was almost 9 months pregnant when it happened and my manager was previously overheard saying she hated pregnant employees bc she had to do more work when they were on maternity leave! i believe I was fired bc she was a manipulative person. However, I am having a difficult time explaining it to potential employers. Do I have to reveal why I was terminated or what can I say to avoid all the questions that comes with being fired?