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How to explain past employment issues in job interviews

Being terminated can happen to any professional, and it isn't always your fault. Or, you might have made a mistake about skill level or compatibility with a certain type of job. Mistakes and setbacks are a part of learning, but when it's time to move on to your next job, you might be worried about what to say at an interview if you were fired from your last position. While there's no point in beating yourself up, you will have to explain and prove you are a serious candidate. Let's go over how to explain uncomfortable work-history events.

Be honest with the interviewer

It shouldn't be much of a surprise, but the most important tip in these situations is to be honest about why you were terminated, or why whatever troubling event happened. Try to give the potential employer the most objective explanation. You can calmly explain why it happened from your perspective, commenting about how you've learned certain things since then. Keep it factual and simple, answering further questions if asked.

You can create a profile so employers can find you, but they'll look into your past positions and ask the tricky questions eventually. Don't accidentally turn a small issue into something bigger by trying to minimize or hide what happened. Hiring managers value a candidate who can be direct and truthful without badmouthing anyone. Well-worded reasons for being terminated from a job might include:

  • The company thought your set of skills was right for the position but changed their minds.
  • There were too many absences or tardiness due to personal circumstances and work-life balance.
  • You weren't given enough time to improve a performance rating.
  • The job was outsourced and you were fired or laid off without wrongdoing.

When you upload a resume and get an interview, the excitement might cause you to forget that you'll probably be asked about leaving your old job. The best thing you can do is be candid and clarify what parts of what happened were beyond your control. That way, you're more likely to be listened to and employers are more likely to look past the issue.

Focus on the positive

When discussing issues like being fired, you must be careful not to say anything negative about your previous employer. There are usually positives to any bad situation or setback at work. For instance, someone applying to digital marketing jobs could say something like "Firing me wasn't needed, though I understand why it was done and have learned a lot more about what it takes to succeed in digital marketing."

Show how you've grown

With the basic circumstances out of the way, hiring managers mostly want to know that you are a reliable employee in the present. By showing what you learned and how you've grown after a setback, it demonstrates that you accept responsibility and look for ways to be better. Feel free to describe what changes you've made, what skills you've learned, and new strategies to prevent such an issue from happening again.

Move on to current skills and achievements

Although you'll likely be asked about a serious employment issue like getting fired, it doesn't have to take up much of the interview. Once you felt the topic is covered, gracefully move on to discussing your skills and how you think you could contribute to the company.

The point of the interview is how you will do in the job currently on offer today, so don't let any moment from the past distract from your current value. All that difficult moment really amounts to is a challenge that helped you become the employee you are today, and an honest, direct attitude will help the hiring manager agree.

Bonus: Should you mention firings on a cover letter?

Some job-seekers wonder if the most honest thing to do is mention being fired from a previous job on the cover letters you send with your resumes. This could be for the best if you're certain that it will come out after a reference check. At the same time, don't pad out your cover letter with the full story either. Just be brief but accurate, and save the longer explanations for a phone screening or interview.

When deciding how to get a job after being fired, many people give up early for fear of judgment. Complicated periods in your work history shouldn't stop you from applying to your dream jobs. All you need is to take that ever-improving mindset and use it to find the best job-hunting platform. Using CareerBuilder tips and guides, you'll have the skills and empowering attitude to get hired sooner.

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