I Was Fired: How to Discuss Being Fired From Your Last Job In an Interview and STILL Look Like A Star Candidate

Mid Managers and executives get fired for lots of reasons. Some are legitimate for performance reasons and some firings are completely unjustified. Regardless of the reason for being let go there are solid methods for communicating the circumstances without it hurting your candidacy with future potential employers.

Here are three solid steps you can take to have successful interviews after being fired.

Step #1 – Give yourself time to decompress

This is the most important step you can and will take. If you have lost your job most likely you will go through a grieving process – similar to other significant life-losses we all experience. If you interview prematurely you may inadvertently “wear your grief” and/or find yourself unable to talk about your last employer with the kind of convincing detachment and discretion you will need to keep interviewers focused and excited about the value you offer them.

What if you need to begin to interview right away? Well then to speed up your “grieving process” while still honoring that time cycle, take a ceremonial weekend vacation, book a round of golf, a spa day or a family picnic by the lake. Whatever you decide make sure it’s fun and relaxing because this is your decompression time…just for yourself! Title your outing: “your ceremonial moving on.” This is a physical process that evokes very real physical and mental benefits.

I have seen this “moving-on ceremony” work wonders with my clients (it will work for you too!) and I have used it myself. When I left my last employer my husband threw me a congratulatory dinner and I bought myself a decadent slice of carrot cake, stuck and candle in it and we spent the evening talking about the future. It was wonderful!

Step #2 – Identify your allies

You want to contact any and all allies you have and had with your last company. These can include past colleagues, people that worked for you, key executives, clients and vendors. Anyone that can attest to your strengths, your attributes and anything positive. In applicable cases those individuals who can diplomatically hint that there were problems beyond your control with your last company can be especially helpful. Remember references can be provided by lots of other people besides your immediate “boss”.

Step #3 – Prescript a BRIEF but clear statement

Develop a brief statement about the reason you were fired and practice saying it. You can use it in your upcoming interviews. Keep it short and simple and clear. Here is an example:

Unfortunately I had no choice but to leave my last employer. When I originally took the position I was excited about________.

At first blush it seemed that their recent merger was going well. I had no idea there was such internal animosity amongst management. Perhaps in my excitement of the opportunity I missed the subtle signs. If I were to interview for another merger situation I would certainly know what questions to ask. Now I am focusing my attention on moving forward and I am quite excited to be here to talk with you about your corporation’s goals.

No matter what you “say” the secret is to be positive, bold and forward thinking. Your interviewers will focus on whatever you shine the spot light on so keep your attention on them, their challenges and how you can help them!

Using these three steps you can easily turn a situation you may be worrying about into a non-issue. Remember too, many people that have been fired worry terribly that they will have to make big sacrifices in order to land their next position. This is so often untrue! Use the situation to reflect on whatever can be learned from it, use these powerful techniques to minimize any damage and simply move on!

Mary Elizabeth Bradford is the Founder and Executive Director of CEOresumewriter.com and Maryelizabethbradford.com and a past executive recruiter. A thought leader in the career services industry for over 20 years, she holds 5 distinct advanced certifications for senior-level resume writing, online branding and executive-level job search coaching (CERM, CMRW, CARW, MCD, NCOPE). She has been seen and heard in major media including Forbes, Time, WSJ, Newsweek and NBC affiliate stations. She holds 2 CDI TORI awards and is a top tier judge for the elite CDI TORI awards for four consecutive years. Mary Elizabeth Bradford’s elite team of award-winning, certified, top executive resume writers, former top executive recruiters, and global HR executives help many of the world’s premier C-suite, board members and thought leaders secure the transitions and compensation packages they want. She works with clients all over the globe.

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