Selling Yourself in Job Interviews When You've Been Fired

If you've been fired from one or more previous positions, expect the job interviewer to ask questions. When explaining why you were fired, keep it brief, keep it honest, and keep it moving. Say what you need to say and redirect the conversation to your qualifications. You'll need to sell yourself in the interview if you want a chance at being hired.

The following sample interview questions appear in bold, followed by effective ways to respond to each question:

Were you fired from your last job?

  • If it wasn’t your fault:

    Explain the firing as a result of downsizing, mergers, company closure, or some other act beyond your control. Sometimes firing happens several times in a row to good people who figuratively happen to be standing on the wrong street corner when the wrong bus comes along. So many people have been on that bus these days that being terminated is no longer a big deal. Being let go wasn’t your fault, so you have no reason to feel guilty.

  • If it was your fault:

    Say you learned an enormous lesson during the experience. You messed up, but you know better now, and you won’t make the same mistakes again. Explain briefly how you benefited from this learning experience. Then quickly turn the interview back to the better you and go on to explain how you’re the best candidate for the job.

Have you ever been asked to resign? Why?

  • Being allowed to resign (a gentler process than being fired for cause) suggests that you may be able to work out a mutually agreeable rationale with your former employer. Do so and stick to that rationale.

  • When you have no rationale, admit your mistake and say it was a painful lesson that caused a change in your work habits.

If you’ve been fired from several jobs, you may need to call on a third party’s help. Appeal to your family and friends to step in and recommend you to people they know personally who can hire you. Make sure that the people with hiring power are aware of your past mistakes and assure them that you’ve learned from the experiences and have reformed your wicked ways. Your other most likely options are to obtain additional education or training for a fresh start or consider self-employment.

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