Monday, November 12, 2007

Explaining Job Termination

Hi Job Lounge!
In reading your site, I am very impressed with the help you provide candidates in explaining a termination to prospectice employers. My situation is somewhat industry specific. I'd like to get another position within the same industry and need help. I appreciate the advice in other postings about asking colleagues to speak highly of you as references. However, I need more help preparing for interviews.

I work in the pharmaceutical industry. At the end of the day, I didn't realize that a $5 gift card can be construed as a "bribe". If I had purchased five dollars worth of coffee, instead of a gift card, I would still be employed. It was an honest mistake.

Here is the explanation I am contemplating:
I was terminated for a minor compliance violation. My company has a "Zero tolerance" policy and in making this mistake I was subject to termination. I've learned that I need to be more careful and double check these policies before making decisions. You will see from the performace evaluations I've included in this portfolio that my work was at or above expectations throughout my time with this employer. It was unfortunate that I made this small mistake but I understand why
I was let go and will not let this happen again."

Please advise. Thank you.

I'm so sorry you were terminated for such a minor issue. I can imagine how distressed you must feel. Here's my advice:

In the job interview, explain the situation much as you have above, only use milder (less scary) terminology. Avoid the word "termination." For example, instead of "I was terminated for a minor compliance violation," try something like "I was let go for a minor misunderstanding of company policy, which I deeply regret." Then continue as you did above, emphasizing that you have learned from the experience and will not repeat it.

When making your explanation, pay close attention to the interviewer's body language so you can fine-tune your response as you go. The most important message you want to send is that you are a high-value, low-risk investment for the potential employer.

Good luck with your transition!

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