If you were forced out of your previous company, you were either laid off (terminated without cause) or fired (terminated with cause). Being laid off does not reflect that poorly on you. Being fired does. Being fired will always affect your employment chances. Always. There is a reason that you should never try to get fired if you hate a job. If you hate the job, you need to quit, otherwise you may get fired and have a terrible time convincing other jobs that you are going to be a good employee.
If you are asked why you were fired, you cannot afford to lie. The interviewer need only call your previous employer and find out the reason for themselves, and then you are never getting the job. Your best bet is, instead, to minimize the damage.
How to Answer
Stay away from terms like “fired” or “insubordinate” or “drunk at work.” Anything that has a negative connotation you need to avoid. Also, don’t get defensive. This is not the time to claim it was not your fault. Use the following formula when creating your answer:
- Start out saying positive things about the company.
- Gloss over what happened.
- End with how you have worked on yourself.
As a special treat, we will give you two different good answers today. One that can show you how to explain that you were drunk at work, and another on how to explain being insubordinate to your manager.
Bad Answer (Drunk)
“I was fired because I showed up drunk at work. It was a stupid mistake that I will never do again.”
Bad Answer (Insubordinate)
“I was fired for a misunderstanding. It wasn’t my fault. I wrote my boss an email right after we had a fight and he assumed it was written angry but it wasn’t. It was unfair that they let me go.”
Good Answer (Drunk)
“I loved my previous employer. The work was enjoyable, and I got along well with both my coworkers and my supervisors. Unfortunately, my personal life had not been going as well, and one day I let my personal life interfere with my professional life. Since then I have sought out a great deal of help and I am currently in a much better place.”
Good Answer (Insubordinate)
“Ah, I was let go through something that was entirely my fault. I loved my work and the company. My supervisor and I used to exchange ideas openly, which of course is healthy for any workplace. Yet one day she and I were discussing one particular idea and the conversation got so passionate that it appeared to her that I was resisting her authority, which of course was not my intention. Since then I have made sure that I keep my tone down when discussing ideas so that my objectives are not misinterpreted.”
As you can see from these answers, you do address the issue head on, but you minimize it by complimenting your old work place (showing you are not bitter), putting the mistake into perspective and following up with what you have done to change.
Any time you are fired it can affect your chances of finding a job, so there is no guarantee that any of these answers will get you the role. They will, however, improve your chances of getting the job compared to the alternative of either telling the truth in poor terms or lying.
Take Away Interview Tips
- Getting fired will affect your job chances.
- Try to minimize the effect by saying positive things about the workplace, attacking the problem head on and showing what you have done to change.