Dealing With The 'F' Word During A Job Interview

fired question interview jobsBy Rochelle Kaplan

Being fired from a job can happen to anyone and can occur for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you had a personality conflict with your immediate supervisor and your supervisor prevailed. Or, the job description was completely different from the one given to you during the interview and it was absolutely the wrong fit.

Or, how about this: You really screwed up and deserved to be fired!

First, don't obsess over it. You are undoubtedly not alone. I was fired from my first job (Sears, retail) when security accused me of using my employee discount on friends. I was mortified when it happened because it was untrue. But, being only 18, I was ill-equipped to convince management and security otherwise!

All I wanted to do at the time was hide under a rock and re-emerge when I was ... 19! Soon enough, however, I learned that being fired was not the end of the world and certainly not a reflection on my overall skills and character. Instead of dwelling on the fact you've been fired, focus on what you plan to do next and how you're going to secure another job.

Instead of dreading the inevitable question of why you left your last place of employment, understand that there are effective ways to address the issue with a prospective employer. Work on how you can turn the negative incident into a positive event, or at least learn how to neutralize it to your benefit. But remember, no matter what you fear may happen when you utter that dreaded "f" word - and chances are your fears will never come true - you must always tell the truth!

Here are 6 suggestions to help you be prepared for handling the question of why you were fired:

1. Don't lie!

Be honest from the get-go. Don't lie or think that telling half-truths will diffuse the situation. Know this: If the prospective employer discovers the truth - and he or she probably will - your chances of landing the job will be slim to none. By telling the truth, you'll display credibility, integrity and principle. You're not the only person to ever be fired and it is likely that the interviewer sitting across the table from you was also fired sometime in his or her career.

2. Don't be defensive!

Swallow your pride! Separate your ego from the incident and be honest with yourself about what transpired leading up to being fired. Be introspective and figure out what really went wrong. Also, don't allow shame to prevent you from seeing it objectively and understanding why your boss fired you. And for heavens' sake, don't blame anyone else for you being fired!

3. Be accountable.

Now is the time to take responsibility for your part in what happened, if you haven't yet done so, no matter how you feel about your former employer. Whatever it takes to achieving peace with yourself, do it: meditation, yoga, therapy, the 12 Steps - whatever works for you. When you're at peace with yourself and know who you are and what you've done, you'll be more convincing in answering that question in an interview, which, in turn, will likely make your interviewer more at ease, too.

4. Construct a clear answer.

Before you go into an interview, create a concise and clear answer as to why you were fired. Verbalize exactly what happened, what you learned from it, what you would do differently now that you have 20:20 hindsight, and how you would avoid certain confrontations in the future. Write it out, edit it and commit it to memory. Did I say memorize it?

5. Brevity is key!

When explaining your situation in an interview, be concise and to the point; don't ramble on and on and let your nerves get the best of you. Most hiring managers don't expect a detailed account of what led up to your firing and truly require only a summary of the incident. Again, no defensive rants about how awful your former boss was!

6. Practice your answer.

Stand in front of a mirror and say it out loud. Practice at home, in your car, at the gym, at the grocery store until you can say it with sincerity and in a calm manner. Ask yourself: Are you still bitter, resentful and angry about being fired? If you are, rid yourself of those emotions (Go back to suggestion No. 2). The hiring manager/interviewer is likely going to be concentrating on how you express yourself more so than on what you're saying. Have you learned from the experience? Is this reflected in your answer and demeanor? Has it changed the way you now conduct yourself at work? Focus on how you deliver your answer and how others will perceive it.

Next: Stressed At Work? Build Yourself An Anti-Stress Arsenal

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August 27 2012 at 4:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dennis Lee

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go for plan B

February 10 2012 at 5:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't lie about getting fired? Are you kidding? In this economy? Riiigght. And most companies can only say things like what your position was, how much money you made, how long you worked there and in some cases they will say if you are re-hireable or not. But most won't even say that for fear of getting sued.

February 10 2012 at 5:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dennis Lee

learn which quadrant you are in, then plan B is your next step!

February 10 2012 at 5:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Honestly... be willing to relocate. Moving SUCKS, but not having an income is worse. It's not an easy or cheap task, but a lot of people who are out of work would in fact be employed if they kept an open mind about moving. Jobs are out there, they just may not be in your first choice of place to live. There are a billion other factors out there as well, but willingness to move can make the difference between three part time jobs in the city you love or a good full time career in a city you never considered.

February 10 2012 at 3:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

LOL, it was a good article & it may help some people, that are not ,shall we say outgoing,outspoken or extroverts, i have been in construction for 40 years, most of the time i've felt that if i didn't get fired once or twice a year i wasn't doing a good job,or giving the company that pays my salary their moneys worth. most times a good employee gets fired is because he/she is a threat to the existing boss & the boss can't deal with it,because they know that they will be replaced or put at a lower position on the food chain, i've had this happen,lol,also been fired for telling the boss he's stupid,had bosses tell me they were unhappy with me,but didn't want to fire me,because they knew that i had out performed their favorites & they didn't want to have to tell their boss why thewy were unhappy. i've been fired for doing too good of a job,lol,thats hard to believe isn't it. been fired because myself & a co-worker started laughing when one of those stupid people came up, because we had just said that the only boss that hasn't shown up was the stupid one,one of the other bosses came back with my checks & wanted to know what i had done,my partner & i told him & he almost rolled on the floor laughing, i went to work the next day for the same company,only on a different project. as for the person that was talking about a right to work state not letting you draw unemployment,don't apply if you have been fired,because you will have problems,what you have to do is to get at least 2 jobs that are only going to last a few days,then apply ,then you don't have to list the job you were fired from, i have beat the firing thing stopping your unemployment,but it is much simpler to just get a few days work from at least 2 other employers & get laid off or end of job type termination, don't try to mislead the unemployment office,they are there to help you in a time of need. i have lived this life for 40 years,raised 3 sons,had good times & bad,but my family never went hungry!

February 10 2012 at 1:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to goodwrench40's comment


February 10 2012 at 2:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Do not ever work for Michelle Ricard-Veidis! She fired me unjustly in 2004 from my financial services job. In my firing session, I told her and the human resources representative that Mich was a TOXIC manager and that the rest of her team would soon be leaving. Sure enough, my other three teammates quit within a few months. Mich herself was laid off 15 months after she axed me, much to my joy!

Three years after Mich fired me, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and I am no longer able to work.

February 10 2012 at 1:20 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to petuniua's comment

This post written by someone who has never heard of slander.

February 10 2012 at 3:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

you were fired because you were consistently late for work..don't lie just because you don't have to leave your real name Christine Powers.

August 27 2012 at 12:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to nipperton's comment

and they didn't quit - 2 of them were promoted to another department.

August 27 2012 at 3:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
Dr. D

I'm going for my Master's degree in May, and when I graduate, I'm going to put down on my resume a job I was fired at during my post-bachelor's degree era. It was at a hospital in a really bad community...The place was a DUMP...filthy, disgusting, and disorganized in Queens, NY. I was fired for "insubordination" because I protested against the working conditions, which were compromising patient healthcare. The state literally was coming in every 2 weeks to inspect the place! I put up with this for 3 months before I was terminated. Four months after I was fired, the state came in to inspect the hospital (due to my letter writing campaign to OSHA about this hospital) and my supervisor got fired!!! There's karma for you! So when I get approached by any prospective employer about this job, I will gladly tell them that I was fired and I'll be sure to tell the above story. Hopefully, they realize that I'm all for patient care and I was wrongfully terminated. Before this job, I was out of the field for almost 3 years, and I got right back into it with ease. That was the only good thing that came out of it, and fittingly so, it was the last job I'll have before my Master's degree starts up!

February 10 2012 at 1:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I will do you one better I got my former emplyer under State and Federal ivestigation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The kicker is they don't know who did it even though I told the.

February 10 2012 at 1:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you are feeling down about unemployment, listen to the song "Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel. It will make you feel better I promise!!! It is a song about losing your job so it is very relevant here.

February 10 2012 at 1:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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