Thursday, January 3, 2008

Keep Job Desperation Under Control

When interviewing for a job, most people get a little nervous. And if you’ve recently been laid off or fired from your last position, that fear may escalate since recruiters and companies tend to avoid anyone who seems even the least bit desperate.

But there is a way to help set aside those prejudices and put a positive spin on the fact that even though you're currently without work, you're still a viable candidate for a position.

If you have been fired: Present the logic of how your "de-hiring" (being fired) happened in four or five sentences. You should at all costs avoid saying that you were "fired" since interviewers tend to not hear anything else once that word has been said. Instead, say that you left by "mutual agreement", and never sound defensive or cast blame.

If you've been laid off: Be honest. There will be a certain degree of understanding from the interviewer since it has become more common across all industries. Again, avoid sounding bitter or resentful toward the company or management. You can tell an interviewer that you received a terrific severance or buyout package that you decided to accept -- if that is what happened.

The key to putting a positive spin on either being fired or laid off is to tell an interviewer that you used the time to pursue additional education, or that you used it as family time to reassess your life and carefully plan your future. By expressing these actions as real acts of courage -- that it's often difficult to look ahead but you did it -- then you give the interviewer an impression of strength.

Further, make sure you tell the interviewer how taking these actions brought improvements, such as furthering your education or having meaningful time with your family that helped crystalize your future plans.

Finally, make sure that you are well-prepared to answer questions from an interviewer by practicing with a family member or friend, or even videotaping yourself to look for areas of improvement. Always have specific examples that demonstrate how you've used your skills to handle situations on the job or at home, and make sure you end the interview with a positive statement.



Anonymous said...

You offer some good advice here, Anita. However, I have to quibble with you on the issue of being “fired” versus leaving by “mutual agreement.” I know someone who was fired but who stated in a job interview that he left a previous job by “mutual agreement” (or something close to that). The hiring manager found out through another channel that he was, in fact, fired, and, presumably because of that, didn’t offer him the job, for which he had been a strong candidate. To me, “fired” connotes you were terminated because of something you did (e.g., misconduct) or didn’t do (e.g., some of the duties of your job).

As an alternative, “let go” would be a softer way of saying you were fired, especially if you lost your job because you didn’t agree with your managers or leadership, or they felt you weren’t working out in the position and believed the best alternative was to terminate you.

Any hiring manager who has a hard time with the word “fired” is severely limiting his or her options in filling a position. If I were to hear from a candidate that he or she had been “fired” from a job, I’d at least want to know why. The answer would tell me a lot more about the person than a mere 5-letter word.

Thanks and Happy New Year!

Anita said...

Please, feel free to quibble with me anytime. "Mutual agreement" has always been the standard advice from experts I've spoken with, but you raise a good point. Still, I'd avoid saying "fired" at all costs since only the most open-minded interviewers would try and get past that to find out the real reasons why. With so many candidates on the job market, my guess is that a hiring manager would take the easy road and just move on to the next candidate once he thought there were any potential problems in the employment history. I do think your "let go" is a good alternative.