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Should I Tell Them The Real Reason I Was Fired?

Should I Tell Them The Real Reason I Was Fired?

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Dear J.T. & Dale: I’m trying to find an appropriate way of explaining why I was fired from my last job. The reason given is that in a four-month period, I sent 11 personal e-mails. The company has a rather vague policy about using company e-mail for private use, but says it’s OK if it’s infrequent and done during breaks. My 11 e-mails average out to less than one a week, and all were done on my breaks. I have reason to believe that the real reason I was fired was because I filed a workplace violence complaint. Another fact I should add is that I was replaced by a personal friend of the manager who had been laid off from another job. – Teri

J.T.: When interviewing, I’d suggest that you admit to being fired and explain about the 11 e-mails, adding: “My mistake was interpreting the company’s e-mail policy incorrectly. It said that occasional use was acceptable, and I thought that fewer than one a week would be OK. But it wasn’t. It taught me how important it is to adhere to all policies, and when in doubt, get clarification.

Now I just want to land a job and get back to contributing. I know I’m a better employee for the experience.” Notice that this doesn’t mention the lawsuit. That’s because it isn’t the “on the record” reason for your termination, so there’s no reason to hoist a potential red flag.

DALE: Well said, but here’s the problem: Teri doesn’t believe the e-mails were why she got fired. You don’t believe it. I don’t believe it. Hiring managers won’t believe it. The e-mail story leaves imaginations free to roam, wondering, “What was the REAL reason?” Because they don’t know, they will trade a doubt for a certainty and hire someone else. So, does that mean you bring up the lawsuit? No.

However, there is still one explanation left, and it’s a gem: You just add, “To be candid, I don’t think those e-mails were the real reason.” Picture the hiring manager leaning forward, eager to hear the REAL story. “One of the manager’s pals had been laid off, and he brought the guy in to replace me.” With that, the hiring manager leans back as suspicions turn to sympathy.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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J.T. & Dale “JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.