In this tight economy, is it possible to turn ‘fired’ into ‘hired’? Find out…
Caution: There will be a test! But this is better news than you think. When you understand what you’re being tested on, it’s easy to prepare. I used this trick all through college. If I could get a feel for what my professors expected, I would know exactly what to study. I didn’t become a subject matter expert, but I became a great test-taker!
That’s your role during an interview. Your objective in answering the “fired” question is to score an “A” on your job interview, not to deep-dive into the details of your previous termination. Your objective is to pass the test.
What is your interviewer looking for?
Think of it this way: How you answer the question of being fired reveals more about you than the details of the firing do. In short, your answer is more important than your reason.
Most people have been fired at least once in their careers. Your interviewer has probably seen both sides. Firing is not the issue. But discussing it is a great way to unveil potential character flaws or undesirable personality traits like dishonesty or cynicism. When other applicants dwell on the details, argue their cases, or cast blame, your well-prepared response is going to shine in contrast.
How do you craft a response?
Obviously, get clear on what really happened. Don’t sugarcoat. At this point, just relax. We’re not interviewing yet; we’re just reflecting. You can’t fake honesty (your body language and your reference checks will give you away.) Spend your time getting comfortable with the truth, not rewriting it.
Now, write your one- to three-minute story. It has three short parts: before, what changed, and where I am now.
Before: What did you love about your job before things went downhill? State this in a single thought such as, “I loved working directly with customers and helping them visualize what they wanted to see in the end result.”
Change: “Over time, my role turned into 90% paperwork and only 10% customer interfacing. I’m not a bad writer, but my real passion is people and my lack of ambition in my new role was evident. I was wrong for not recognizing this sooner, but I’ve recently taken a career profile test and I now understand where I perform and what areas I could improve.”
Now: Now, share what you learned or why your future employer can expect their arrangement with you to end more positively than your last one. You would explain like this: “That’s why I am here. I’ve researched your company and this position. It greatly resembles my original role at XYZ Company. I’m excited about the opportunity here to team up with a requirements writer and think we’ll make a great team. If my role here should change, I’ll be the first to speak up and discuss it.”
See how this formula speaks directly to the interviewers concerns about you, succinctly and sufficiently with maturity and professionalism?
How do you prepare for the actual moment?
Allow plenty of time! You need to be able to do this without emotion and without missing a beat. Confidence and clarity is everything. In this case, practice makes perfect.
Write you 3-step story and recite it until you’re repeating it in your sleep. Even if you are asked follow-up questions (not likely), you’ll have a solid outline to refer to. You’ve already addressed the past, you’ve explained the reason and your involvement in it, and demonstrated new behavior by taking a class or career test to improve your performance. If you haven’t taken steps like these, do it! Even if the firing wasn’t your fault, you’re going to look like a rock star.
Don’t forget to practice non-verbal responses too. Hold your posture and your gaze when the question is first asked and while you are responding. Anticipate the question and you’ll be less likely to slouch, sigh or sweat when it comes up! Keep still and hold your voice steady (remember, you’ve rehearsed this a thousand times.)
Also, don’t take the question or responses personally. Passing an interview with flying colors is less about your job skills and history, and more about your ability to market yourself and to respond with maturity in difficult situations. You are essentially “selling yourself “ as the best possible candidate.
If you practice these things truthfully, you’ll feel confident and it will show. You’ll probably be more comfortable than the person asking the question!
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