The Big Interview Question: Explaining Why You Were Fired

Every question asked by the hiring manager is considered essential because it’s his way of seeing through the applicant. One popular technique used is by asking the applicant about the reason why he was fired from his recent job.

The method is so old yet it’s effective, simply because it allows the hiring manager to effectively learn about the applicant’s characteristics.

Try to observe responses of applicant A and applicant B towards the question, “why were you fired in your last job?”

Applicant A

“I’ve been enjoying my stay in the company, but when our boss left, everything changed. Our new boss is strict with almost everything. I even got a warning for being late by a minute. I was late because the new biometrics scanner can’t detect my fingerprint properly so I had to scan thrice. A few days later, I was fired because of tardiness. I didn’t regret to leave the company because I feel like I’m being caged. I hope the same thing doesn’t happen here.”

Applicant B

“I was fired after a major change in the management level. I’m trying my best to adapt to the new policies, but I wasn’t able to exceed their expectations. A couple of days later, the management decided to remove me from the team. I take responsibility for my carelessness, and I have learned my lesson. Now, I’m ready to step on a greener pasture, and I’m hoping that I will be able to showcase my skills here.”

Even an inexperienced hiring manager will be able to point out the characteristics of the two applicants, and he can choose between applicant A and B with no hesitation. Although both responses are valid, one of them portrayed negativity towards work environment.

Here are three things that applicants must remember before explaining their termination.

  1. Keep it simple, applicant – Hiring managers are not interested in lengthy explanations. As much as possible, explain the whole thing in three to five sentences. Don’t forget to point out the lessons you’ve learned from being let go.
  2. Lower the finger, the index finger – When hiring managers mainly hear blame and gossip, they immediately think of declining the applicant. If an applicant was able to say those things towards his recent company, then chances are he can do the same to everyone.   
  3. It’s not you, it’s me – A good way of explaining termination is by telling the expectations that were not met. For example, a customer associate representative may be fired because of the inability to handle a client’s inquiries properly. Remember to add a course of action that was done to improve.

Don’t be afraid when you get asked this question during an interview. It’s not something that’s there just to criticize the applicant, but it’s being asked so that the company will have an overview of the applicant’s weaknesses.

It should be answered without being negative, and it should contain an acceptance of the failure that happened – no matter the reason.

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