OK, hello there. Today, we’re going to answer a question from one of our readers. And the question is: What do you say when you have been fired, and they ask you “Why did you leave your last job?” So, that’s the question we’re going to answer today, and it’s from Carl. Let’s see what he has to say.
I am working at a job right now, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be let go at the end of the month. I’m worried about not just looking for a new job but wondering what I should say in a job interview when they ask me that inevitable question of “Why did you leave your last job?” I know I’m done if I say I was fired, but how can I answer this without feeling like I am lying? –Carl
Well, Carl, this is a very common question and a very common fear, and I have good news for you: It’s not that big of a deal nowadays. In this post, I’ll share five things that will help you to get past the fact that you were fired in the first place and four examples of ways that you can answer this question 100% honestly and ethically, without ever having to utter the words “fired,” “let go,” or “terminated.” So, stay tuned.
#1 No mark of shame is required.
Nowadays, getting fired, unless it was for stealing or doing something illegal, is not a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that you’re tainted, or you’re damaged goods, or you’re walking around with a big “I was fired” stamp on your forehead or anything like that. And it doesn’t have to feel like someone took away your driver’s license either!
It could actually be a badge of honour. I know you’re probably looking at me like I have four heads right now and I get it, but stay with me. For example, some possible proud reasons for being fired may be, you stood up for what you believed in, and they didn’t like it. Congratulations on not being a pushover or a robot! You were not willing to accept unfair treatment any longer, and you freed yourself from being miserable. Congratulations on having some standards! You simply couldn’t take it any longer, and you snapped either due to stress, or your body started telling you that it was time for you to get out of there. Let’s face it—you had to get out, and you did what you had to do.
Can you relate to any of those scenarios? All these things are telling you that it was no longer the place for you and forced you to move in a positive direction, away from a negative, potentially toxic environment. It was actually really awesome because now you’re free to grow as a person and as a professional.
#2 Getting along with everyone is not a realistic goal in life.
Lots of people get fired every day, and it’s not always their fault. Sometimes, companies or hiring managers are just plain unfair. Sometimes, managers can stack the deck against you. Sometimes, one person will just want you fired, and they’re powerful enough to do that. It’s not necessarily about you; it’s just how the cards played out in this situation. Take your lessons, and leave with your head held high.
For more on this, reference the board game analogy that I talk about in my other post, titled “I didn’t get the job”
#3 You got “fired,” or you quit.
What’s really the difference here? Let’s talk about that. It doesn’t matter who broke up with whom. The end result is the same. At the exact time you were getting fired, you could have been thinking in your head, “I have had enough of this, and I quit.” They just happened to get their words out first. In the end, it worked out the same way, though, right?
#4 Don’t ask; don’t tell.
The employer is not going to tell you their full story even if you did ask them, so they’ve got their skeletons, too. For example, if you’re interviewing for an inside sales job, you might want to know what happened to the person who held this role before the new candidate. Do you think they’re going to tell you everything? There have been lots of situations where things have ended badly for the other candidate, and they’re not going to tell you.
Here’s a true story from a job I ended up in. Now, if I had asked them, “What happened to the girl before me? Why did she leave?” if they had been honest with me, this is what they would have said. “The job was impossible for the level of person we were hiring for and for what we were willing to pay them, so the last girl got overwhelmed. She left a huge mess with accounts, and we swept it under the desk—literally. It wasn’t her fault at all. She was put in an impossible spot. Our systems sometimes were very finicky and hard to learn, and she wasn’t given a lot of training. Even with working overtime hours, she was struggling. The work built up so much that she couldn’t possibly keep up with it and the demands that were expected of her. She reached her breaking point and quit with no place to go. If you look under the desk, you’ll see that she was looking for other jobs for months before she left. You’ll find her half-written cover letter drafts in the recycling bin if you dig deep enough. The new person has the lovely honour of coming in and cleaning up the mess. Plus, the new person will be expected to get everything in order and be there 24/7 for whatever she is needed. It’s not pretty, and it doesn’t pay much. You don’t get valued for the work that you do either, and if you do manage to get stuff done, it’s never enough! And that’s why the other poor girl left.”
But I’m sure they’re not going to be totally honest with you about it. Now, they’re not going to tell you that if you ask them why the last person left. Hashtag true story. So, why would you tell them every detail about why you left your last job? Exactly. You wouldn’t.
#5 Let them fire you.
What a concept! Sometimes, there’s no shame in letting them fire you because you need the employment insurance to come through, or you need the severance package, and you deserve it. You paid into employment insurance, but if you quit, you can’t collect on it. If you let them fire you, you can have that cushion. If you let them fire you, you can get the severance you deserve.
OK, let’s move on to some examples for what you can say when they ask you “Why did you leave your last job?”
If it was for longer term employment, if it was, say, 8 months or so, you can say something like this: “The hiring manager and I weren’t on the same page about how to move the department forward, and we decided it was time for me to move on.”
If it was a shorter term (less than 8 months), you can say something like this: “I misjudged the situation. I thought it was going to me more like this, but really it was more like this,” being careful to be respectful of the organisation. Think of it very matter-of-fact. Don’t insert anything that could sound negative.
If it was a small company, and it was struggling, and they couldn’t afford to keep everyone, you can simply say something like this: “It was a small company. They were struggling, and they had layoffs.”
“The organisation and I didn’t share the same values moving forward, and we agreed it was time for me to move on to a new challenge.”
There you have it: five insights on being fired, four examples on what you can say when you’re asked why you left, and that’s all I’ve got for you! I really hope this helps.
Feel free to leave a comment if you liked this post, I’d love to hear from you, or since this is of a sensitive nature I get a lot of people emailing me about it since they would prefer not to leave public feedback, that’s great too! Feel free to also subscribe to my youtube channel, and if you know anybody who has been let go, and they don’t really know how to handle it, pass this information onto them. It’ll be a great resource, too.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever been let go or fired? If so, how did it turn out for you in the end? I bet you landed on your feet. Let us know in the comments below. If you have a question for me, email it on over: Natalie@AskNatalieFisher.com. I read all my emails. If you’d like to keep in touch, subscribe to the lovely youtubechannel, or sign up to get my free guide by clicking below.