There is no easy way to take being fired. Even if you know the decision is justified, it can really sting and one of the hardest parts can be wondering how you’ll get back on your feet and back into the jobs market. This is no time for self-indulgence, because although being fired won’t necessarily hurt your job search, the way you handle it, or mishandle it as the case may be, may well hamper your chances.
The first thing to remember about being fired is that it doesn’t have to mean the end of your career. There are things that you can do that will massively improve your chances of being successful in a job interview.
Accept what has happened
Unless your employment was terminated due to discrimination or any wrongful termination such as ‘constructive dismissal’ where you have legal recourse, you will probably have to accept the firing; regardless of whether or not you think it was justified. This doesn’t mean beating yourself up, but it does mean accepting that you and your employer, for whatever reason, simply weren’t compatible and the more you can do to take it in a business-like way the easier you will find it to move on in a pro-active, if not necessarily positive, way.
Take action straight away
This doesn’t mean storming out of the business, telling all your co-workers how unfair it is or, even worse, taking company property to “make up for it”. It means taking a breath and asking your employer for information.
Firstly, you have to find out if you are actually being fired or whether you’re being made redundant. Even if it is not redundancy, which often comes with some form of financial compensation, you may have severance pay, compensation for holidays untaken or sick days owed to you.
Is there any option to work out your notice? If so, this would be best as it means you can stay in work whilst looking for another job. Can you resign instead of being fired? Even better, as it means you can avoid any stigma of being fired (although this may have an impact on any benefits you want to claim). What information will your employer give in reference checks? Many companies will simply give the dates of your employment, which will be easier to negotiate in the job-seeking process, but some may well disclose the reason for your leaving.
Don’t make the situation worse
Whatever you do, don’t inflame the situation between you and your (former) employer. However tempting it may be to issue a parting shot, remember that those words are the ones that your employer will remember you by whenever they are asked about you, both formally and informally. Also, don’t be tempted to drag colleagues into the situation.
Don’t shout it from the rooftops
It is unlikely that you will want to make a big deal of being fired to everyone you meet, and be careful what you put out on social media. You should try to maintain as much control over ‘who knows what’ as possible.
Don’t bring negativity into your job search
Bear in mind that a lot of how your potential new employer sees the circumstances of your termination will depend on how you yourself present it. If you show bitterness or defensiveness, this will give the interviewer the impression that a) you don’t take responsibility for your actions and b) you haven’t learned anything from the experience.
On the other hand, taking responsibility and a desire to improve are much more appealing to interviewers than finger pointing. However, also bear in mind that the longer you try to explain yourself, the more questions are likely to be raised. Keep it short and direct. Devise an explanation that covers all the facts as simply as possible and practice it until it sounds completely natural, professional and not forced.
The main thing to never, ever do is lie about being fired. The chances of being found out are just too great and once you are, it will be on your record with the company to which you are applying as well as any agency you’re applying through. It’s a small world and people talk. Being fired is one thing, but being known as a liar is quite another.
It might feel like the end of the world, but keep in mind that people are fired from jobs for all sorts of reasons every day. Dwelling on it is not going to help you and just think, once you’ve found a great new job this will be a problem of the past. Stay positive, get back into the job search mentality and keep moving forward.
An example answer
If you’ve been fired, you will automatically dread the inevitable question “why did you leave your last job?” There are ways you can answer this that will minimise any negative perceptions that your interviewer may have. Your personal circumstances will vary from the below of course, but an example answer for someone who has been terminated for underperformance might be:
“I was let go because I struggled to meet the expectations of the role. Looking back, the majority of problems I experienced came about through a lack of training, and I should have asked for help with that early on. I think I just found it hard to admit I needed more support — which I now realise was a mistake.
“The experience has taught me that I should have communicated with my manager more effectively and been more upfront about where I was struggling — something I certainly won’t be repeating in the future. It was tough knowing that there was so much I could have done sooner, but looking to the future I’m working hard to improve my communication and, as a positive to take away from the situation, at least I can now spot and lend a hand when other members of the team might be struggling because I’ve been there.”