Dear Bev: How Do I Explain Losing My Job When I Interview?

It doesn't matter if you were fired, downsized, or decided to quit on your own. Expect to explain why when you start looking for a new job.

What's the best way to handle the conversation?  According to execs in media, HR and career coaching, the best explanations are honest, brief and positive. 

Start by Being Honest with Yourself

"Once you understand the reasons you parted ways with your employer, it will be a lot easier to answer the question about why you lost your job," advised a top leadership coach. More often than not, you don't lose your job based on poor performance. You may find yourself reporting to a new boss you can't get along with, goals may change or responsibilities may be altered. All are common reasons for job loss.

"In today's work climate ,it's less of a stigma to be unemployed -- whether you decide to leave on your own or it's your employer's idea," remarked a senior media executive.

Be Positive, Be Brief.



The second worst thing to do on an interview is to get tangled in a long examination of what went wrong at your last job. Do not badmouth your former employer or your former boss.  It doesn't diminish them; it diminishes you! That's something virtually all hiring managers agree on.

Keep your explanation simple. Some hiring managers don't care if you were let go or why you were let go, others do. Try to read your audience first, then gear your response accordingly, advised one HR executive.

Here are a few ways to characterize your situation:

* The organization was moving in a different direction than the one I

signed up for, and we had a mutual parting of the ways.

* The company brought in a new manager to lead my department and

he/she wanted to bring in his/her own team.

* The responsibilities for my position changed and required different


* I was not the right fit for the company's culture.

You get the idea. And remember:  Avoid using the word fired.

Remember to Emphasize Your Accomplishments

Losing your job is never easy, but don't be defensive. "Talk about why you were valuable and what you contributed," noted a senior media executive. "Give me specifics; how did you do the past quarter or the past year and convince me you can deliver for me and my company," added another.

Navigating a Potential Bad Reference

A personality clash with your former boss is a valid reason for losing a job but may portend a possible problem with a reference check. Try to get in front of this problem, counsels a top leadership coach. Candor works in your favor in these instances. Say something like: 'We had very different work styles, and I don't expect he will be a great reference." He added that it was essential to always be diplomatic. It makes you look bad if you try to bury the person.

Getting fired is difficult, but moving past it is a key step to finding a new job. Just remember to be honest with yourself, keep your explanations simple in your interview, and stay positive overall.

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