Welcome back to BlueRecruit’s interview preparation blog series. My first two posts were about the most frequent interview questions. While I was preparing the series I kept coming back to a hot button issue: How should a candidate talk about getting fired? I thought about including it in the first two posts but it is such a sensitive topic that I am dedicating an entire post to the best way to handle this tricky issue.

Before I go any further I want to make an important distinction between being fired and seasonal employment. In my prior staffing role, one of my clients was an Alabama based roofing company. They did 80-90% of their business from October to May because of the summer heat. It just isn’t practical to have roofers out in 100-degree temperatures on a daily basis so the company would trim the staff down to a skeleton crew during the summer and staff back up in the fall. Naturally, their first calls were to the workers they were familiar with. If I had interviewed any of those workers and they explained the situation I would have considered them employed the entire time. 

Preparing to discuss getting fired in an interview requires some leg work. The first step is to find out what the company will say about you if they are contacted by a potential employer. The laws vary from state to state and you can learn more about them on the Department of Labor’s website. As a general rule, most companies will only provide the basics to avoid any potential lawsuits. Remember that is a general statement so please do your homework. We are not dispensing legal advice, just giving guidance.

After you understand what the company will say about you it’s time for a little reflection. Take some time and think about why you were fired and what you can do differently. 

Unlike the answers I gave you in the Interview Questions blog post, this answer requires a slightly different script. The question will be something like, “Tell me why you left your previous jobs?” As you go down the list of your prior employers you will come to the job where you were fired. Take a moment to collect yourself and then:

  1. Tell the interviewer that you were fired.
  2. Explain in general terms the issue that led to you being fired. For example, you and your supervisor disagreed about a safety issue. Don’t get into the weeds. 
  3. Then tell the interviewer how you have matured from the experience and the behavior that got you in trouble is behind you. Getting fired is humbling and it will be easy for the interviewer to understand. 

The interviewer may probe a little more. If he does you should be sure to emphasize that you have matured since you were fired and you are ready to be a great employee. 

As a recruiter I talked to lots of people who had been fired. I don’t want to mislead you. The approach I shared gives you the best chance to advance in the interview process, but it doesn’t guarantee anything. In my personal experience, the people who were direct and honest with me about past issues usually ended up being good employees. They had taken the time to understand what happened and why it happened. With a little bit of life’s wisdom, they were ready to move forward. 

Good luck with your interview! And if you are just starting out in your job search, create your BlueRecruit profile today.