Dear J.T. & Dale: I loved my last job as a teller at a bank. I was there for four years when they brought in a new manager. Instantly, I could tell I wasn’t going to last long.Nothing I did made him happy, and I went home in tears most nights. Finally I made a mistake he could use, and he fired me. How do I explain being terminated? No matter what I come up with, it makes me look bad. – Jessica
DALE: First off, let’s put being fired in perspective. Harvey Mackay, best known for his book “Swim With The Sharks,” devoted a later book, “Fired Up!”, to stories of people bouncing back from being axed. He writes, “If you’re under 30, the likelihood you’ll be fired in the next 20 years is 90 percent.”
That sounds a tad high, but the point is that the person interviewing you probably has gone through the experience. Remember that, and you’ll relax into the topic.
J.T.: However, why you left your last job remains a crucial question, one that could determine the outcome of the interview. You need to highlight what you loved about the job and then be objective about what ended it.
Something like this: “For four years I loved my job as a teller. In the final months, a new manager was brought in. I’m not sure why, but we didn’t connect. I did my best to support him, but nothing seemed to work.
Eventually, I was let go. In hindsight, I should’ve realized we weren’t meshing and looked for a new job. I held on in the hopes that I could fix it. Now, I want to find a place where I can get back to doing what I love – caring for customers.”
DALE: Well said. Resist the temptation, Jessica, to say more. Just be so positive and upbeat that your attitude says: “Hey, it happens. No big deal. Not a problem.”