Job interviews are stressful enough, but the stress is doubled when you’re worried about how to answer the most dreaded question of all: “Why were you fired?” While the fact that you involuntarily left your last position undoubtedly creates an additional challenge to landing your next job, it doesn’t have to be a total deterrent. There are a few simple rules to follow during the interview process that will keep the tone of the interview positive.
Anticipate the question and have an answer ready. This question is asked at virtually every interview, so don’t invest in false hopes that your interviewer may not inquire. Some even recommend volunteering the information before you are even asked. This tactic can help make you seem more trustworthy when trust may be a concern. Be sure of exactly what you want to say, but be careful not to over rehearse; you do not want to sound scripted. Instead, you want to be calm and confident.
Be honest and acknowledge the interviewer’s concerns. Once your interviewer asks why you left your last healthcare IT job, you have no other viable option but to be honest that you were fired. It can be tempting to tell a half truth, but chances are your references will be checked and the truth discovered. Furthermore, your potential employer could hire you under these false pretenses and then find out you lied down the road, leading to yet another resume black spot. Even if the reasons for your termination were unfair (and you wouldn’t be alone – about a quarter million people are wrongfully terminated every year), avoid over explaining. You will only come off as defensive and you might even prolong a negative discussion. Be direct, honest, neutral, and present yourself in the best possible light, and then quickly move on, preferably with a statement about how you were pleased with the opportunity to learn from you mistakes or to move on to other prospects.
Even though you want to keep this part of the interview as short as possible, you should make sure that the interviewer feels satisfied with your explanation; you don’t want any lingering doubts in their minds. Once you have finished your response, add: “I expect that I’ve addressed your concerns.”
Resist the urge to gossip or otherwise insult your former boss. This can be especially difficult if you are interviewing with a competitor and your interviewer seems to be fishing for dirt, but don’t give in to the urge. The hiring manager might be pleased with the gossip, but not with you, believing that you might badmouth them in the future. Avoid negative statements about your former boss no matter how true they are; be positive and use “we” terms when describing where things went wrong. Accepting responsibility looks good on any interviewee.
Watch your body language and tone of voice. You have been very careful not to say negative or defensive things, so be sure not to look that way either. Control your tone of voice and don’t cross your arms, slouch, hunch down, or avoid the interviewer’s eyes when discussing the termination. Stay positive and you’ll do just fine.
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