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Terminated! What to say if you’ve been Fired or Laid Off

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The Top 7 Interview Questions about getting terminated, laid-off, or just plain FIRED and How to Answer Them Correctly.

Job interview questions are impossible to answer when you feel angry about being fired, guilty about being laid off, or depressed about being out of work. Your emotions are going to work against you in the job interview.

The best thing to do is keep a clear head and have some prepared answers!

We all know that the unemployment rate is soaring, and it’s true that layoffs are common, but it doesn’t seem so common when it happens to you. You probably feel like you have a lot of explaining to do.

You have to explain why you were fired. You have to explain why you were the one laid off in your department. You have to explain why it’s taking you so long to find work. You have to explain why there is a gap in your resume.

The best way to explain your situation in a job interview with a potential employer is to be honest, but brief.

Did I mention brief? Brief is the key. Rambling on and on will get you in trouble. You’ll get tongue-tied and say the wrong thing. Rambling is a beacon to your interviewer that you are hiding something.

And there’s really nothing to hide. Just explain yourself clearly, be honest, be brief, and be prepared with the best answer.

Q: Why did you get fired?
Here’s the toughest question you’ll ever answer in a job interview. The way to answer this question is to be credible, brief, and end on a positive note.

Don’t criticize the company. Don’t say negative things about your coworkers. Don’t call your boss names. Don’t be sarcastic or bitter.

The way to explain getting fired is to describe the event as an isolated incident, that it won’t happen again, and has nothing to do with your job skills. If you filed a report, went through any channels in your company, or negotiated with a labor union go ahead and discuss this, but be brief and don’t blame anyone.

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End your discussion on a positive note by saying that although it was a difficult experience, in the end it was good decision for you and the company.

Best Answer:
“I just couldn’t get along with my boss. He had something against me personally. When he promoted others in my department and skipped me, I had a meeting with his boss. His boss agreed that my work was exceptional, and they tried to get me transferred out of the department. There just weren’t any openings in the company and the situation got worse. The whole experience was very difficult, but I learned a lot, and looking back, I think it was best thing for me.”

Q: Why did you leave your last job?
Avoid going in to detail about the closing or lay off. Don’t relate the pink-slip experience, don’t describe what a shock it was for everyone, and don’t start rambling about events leading up to the lay off. All your interview wants is a simple answer to a simple question.

Best Answer:
Keep it to a one-liner such as “I left when our department was closed”.

Q: Why did your company close your department?
This is not the time to criticize your coworkers or company. Your interviewer will see this as a negative and chalk you up as a complainer. Don’t make comments about the blunders that the company made, the goof-balls in your department, or that management made a big mistake by laying you off.

Be careful not to criticize your company’s competitors. You don’t want to call the other company “sleazy” or “under-handed”, you never know, your interviewer might have a relative that works at that company and they won’t appreciate your comments. In short, it’s a small world, and companies in a similar business tend to know each other.

And remember, the lay off was out of your hands. It had nothing to do with you or your skills.

Best Answer:
Be ready with a short, concise statement such as “Sales had been declining for years and our product line was discontinued”.

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Keep it brief with an answer such as “We lost our contract to a competitor. They brought in their own staff and let us go”.

Q: What have you been doing since you’ve been out of work?
Don’t say “I’ve been looking for work”. Your interviewer will think that you are just looking for a paycheck. You need to prove to your future employer that this position is important to you.

Focus on accomplishments that showcase your abilities. Maybe you took a class or training course, be sure to discuss the importance of continued education. Maybe you volunteered at church, school, or a local charity. Even small things will demonstrate that you are self-motivated, organized, and a well-rounded person.

Best Answer:
Describe your accomplishments such as “I’ve been doing consulting work at the Community Center. I’ve always wanted to help them and I’m glad I had the opportunity”.

Q: Why do you want to work here?
Please don’t say “I need the money”. That’s like saying that you don’t care about the company or the position. Remember, they’re proud of their company and their products. Explain to your interviewer why you will be an excellent addition to their organization.

Best Answer:
Prepare some concrete reasons why you like the company such as “I’ve always respected your company and products. I read a recent article that you are a leader in the field and I want to be a part of that”.

Have some reasons on hand about why they should hire you such as “I get results, I’m self-motivated, and I have a variety of interests and skills that are a perfect fit for this position”.

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Q: Why haven’t you found a job yet?
Don’t get defensive. Be ready to answer this in a way that makes you look good, not needy.

You’re looking for just the right company, you have an excellent skill set, and you have a lot to offer. Turn this question around and describe the job you are applying for and why you are the perfect person for the position.

Best Answer:
Give a confident answer such as “I have years of experience, I just finished a training course that updated my skills, and looking over your job description for this position, I have all the qualifications. I’m glad I didn’t jump at just any job offer, I think this position and your company will be perfect fit for me”.

Q: Can you explain this gap in your resume?
This layoff will be on your resume from now on. Even years from now, you will still be explaining the window when you were unemployed.

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Just be honest. Don’t change your beginning or end dates to make the gap look smaller. They can easily call your previous company and get your employment dates. Your interviewer will know that after big layoffs, the market is flooded, and it takes a while for everyone to find another job.

Best Answer:
Remember stick to your one-liner such as “My company had a big layoff last fall”.

Keep in mind that my answers are ideas as to what you might want to say to prospective employers. They are not suggesting that you lie. If my ideas work for you and the circumstances are true, then consider using them, but don’t create falsehoods for yourself.

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by Don Georgevich

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