Welcome to Ask Away, Recruiter.com’s new weekly column! Every Monday, we’ll pose an employment-related question to a group of experts and share their answers. Have a question you’d like to ask the experts? Leave it in the comments, and you might just see it in next week’s Ask Away!
This Week’s Question: When you’re fired from a job, it leaves a black mark on your resume — one that might prevent you from landing another job somewhere else. What can someone do to get a new job after they’ve been fired from a previous one? How can they overcome the black mark and prove to an employer that they are the right candidate?
“First, understand that you’re not the first or last person to be fired, to declare bankruptcy, or to have some misfortune in life. So shed the shame and roll up your sleeves. Time to get to work!
“Second, don’t lie. When you’re caught — and you will be — you lose all trust, and that’s essential for being rehired and maintaining a new job. You don’t have lead with, ‘I just got fired!’ but you do have to mention it in the interview. Not the cold call or the cover letter/resume, but if you do get an interview, you need to let a future employer know what happened.
“Third, try to smooth over the firing, when possible. If you were employed by a beast, let it go, but if you had any responsibility in the reason for your being fired, apologize, be understanding and thank your former employer for the opportunity afforded you. This isn’t just good manners — it’s good strategy. It’s pretty much guaranteed that your new employer will check your references, and if you leave the job from which you were fired with some grace, you have a better shot at a pleasant (if not glowing) reference.”
“People lose their jobs for a variety of reasons — reduction in force, not a fit with a new boss, redundant job skills in a department, fraud, theft, sexual harassment, whistleblowing, inappropriate conduct, attendance [issues], etc. It depends on why someone was terminated.
“Most large companies and many small companies will not provide references or reasons for dismissal. They will only verify dates of employment and salary. It is not always a black mark on your employment history if you have been terminated. A person needs to be able to answer the question of why they were let go. Be honest and precise — e.g., ‘I missed my sales quota.’ Don’t make excuses, but do offer an explanation of why — e.g., ‘I spent months working on a huge account that didn’t come through. I put all of my eggs in one basket. I’ll never do that again.’
“It’s a lot harder to answer the question if [you were fired] for any of the misconduct listed above. People make mistakes. Try to get references from previous employers [who will give] good references. A final word of advice: learn from [your] mistake and never do it again.”
6 Steps to Land the Job
“1. Use volunteer work as a gateway to your next position. By doing volunteer work. you can build good relationships at the organization where you volunteer and show that you are worthy of hire.
“2. Take full advantage of your network. You may be a good worker who was fired unjustly. People who know you and know your work will be willing to help you if they know that the allegations are untrue.
“3. Prepare your response to the question, ‘Why did you leave your last job?’ You should anticipate this question and think through your response before going to an interview. If there was a reorganization and you were left without a job, you can truthfully say that your position was eliminated. Or if it was a contract position, you may be able to say that the organization made a business decision to not renew the contract.”
Call to Career
“Most resume formats do not actually highlight the fact you have been fired. It may, however, come up if a hiring department investigates your work history before requesting to see you for an interview.
“If an HR rep does discover that you were fired, but the rest of your resume looks superb, they will often give you the chance to explain what happened in an interview. Hiring departments know good people sometimes get fired
for reasons above and beyond their control.
“If an HR rep did not discover that you were fired prior to your interview, you’ll have to decide if you want to be totally transparent or not. In more cases than not, honestly is the best policy. You don’t want to get a job
offer only to have it retracted once your omission is discovered.”
Career Advisor, Resume Expert, Author
“Getting fired definitely keeps you humble and allows you to clearly see your weaknesses. If you weren’t the best at your previous job, getting fired might be the perfect segue to begin[ning] a career in a different industry. There’s no sense in following a career path that isn’t the right fit.
“Maybe you only got fired because you were in a position that didn’t highlight your strengths. Someone who isn’t very outgoing might not thrive in a sales position, but would be fantastic at a research job. Employers will be understanding if your talents weren’t being utilized. If you were recently fired, it’s best to step up and keep moving forward toward a career path that’s right for you.”
Lead Resource Manager
“Ask supervisors, peers, vendors, customers, etc. to connect with you on LinkedIn and recommend you there. It’s amazing how much more likely people will be to do this right after you’re fired, as compared to a month later, when rumors about why you were let go have circulated.
“Don’t bad-mouth the company or anyone in it on your way out the door (that includes angry emails to trusted colleagues). If you were unjustly fired, you can take legal recourse, but short of that, there’s nothing to
be gained by striking back. Doing so only puts pressure on colleagues to distance themselves from you, which will weaken your network and make landing your next job more challenging.”
Founder and CEO
“The most common reasons for being fired relate to poor fit between individual and workplace. For example, a demanding work-life balance may be energizing for a single, ambitious person, but unsustainable for someone
with a family. Where an employee’s values conflict with the employer’s, there is high risk of burnout and conflict, but when an employee’s values and work environment preferences are in synh with those of the employer,
he or she becomes naturally more engaged, productive, and happy.
“The key to post-firing comeback, therefore, is to first work out why the previous position didn’t work. Was it due to unresolvable bad fit (e.g., that specific workplace was never the right one for you), resolvable poor fit (e.g., mismatched skill set), or some specific personal issue that is now resolved? Learning your specific patterm of strengths and weaknesses will allow you to make an objective assessment of what went wrong and what job would give you the best chance of success in the future. You can then go into interviews ready with an honest evaluation of why your last position didn’t work out and the steps you’ve taken in your personal and
professional growth to ensure it won’t happen again.”
Workplace Psychologist/Cofounder and Key Designer
“Be honest. Nearly everyone experiences a questionable departure or has something on their resume that raises a red flag for the hiring manager at some point in their career. Whether it’s a gap between positions, a short stint somewhere, or a seemingly inexplicable end to a position, the best approach is to be honest. Good interviewers can see through a smoke screen. Don’t resort to confusing explanations and potential contradictions; spare yourself the risk of being caught in a boldface lie. At SHIFT, ‘honorable’ is one our values, and I would prefer an honorable answer to why you’re no longer at your last job than a half-baked story.”