We’ve looked at how to get a job if you’ve got a criminal conviction, but what about when you’ve been fired? How do you explain the abrupt termination of your employment and what should you say if the subject comes up during an interview?
“I was really honest. There’s no point not telling people because they’re going to find out, so you might as well ‘fess up,” explains Jennifer*, who was fired from her role in a local authority ten years ago. “They wanted to get rid of me anyway and unfortunately there was enough evidence to prove it [the incident] so I was fired for gross misconduct. It was a reaction afterwards of ‘Oh my God what do I do now?’” she says.
What came after were rejections, due in part to her former employers sending bad references (which they aren’t supposed to do), so Jennifer decided to temp, and during that time a temp-to-perm role came up. “When I went to interview for it I was really honest and said ‘You will find this out. I’d been in the role too long, I was bored and I did some really stupid things. Don’t hold it against me forever because I have learned from that’.”
“He thanked me for my honesty and as I walked out of that room I thought there’s no way on earth they’re ever going to give me a job, but they did!” she explains, adding “it’s about being honest and finding the person that will give you that opportunity because they are out there”.
We wish that it was that simple but, as Jennifer warns, you can’t forget about it easily. Two and a half years later she secured an interview at a big company who asked for three year’s worth of references which meant they’d discover her history. “I had a couple of months left of having to own up to it. I could’ve ignored it and not told anybody, but I didn’t. I phoned up and told them I was fired two and a half years ago”. Luckily, the HR team appreciated her honesty, thanked her and said it was fine and they weren’t worried about it.
Yet again, being open about it was the right thing to; Jennifer got the job and has been there ever since.
What do the recruiters say?
That’s how it feels from an employees point of view, but do employers really understand the impact? “Depending on the reason for the dismissal, candidates can be left feeling inadequate, or left with feelings of regret or confusion about what to do next. It’s especially worrying for people without savings,” says Nicola Mewse, Director at Hales Group. “It can change your life in an instant. However, we believe that you shouldn’t let it defeat you because the longer you wait to move on, the harder things will become for you”.
Jennifer was lucky, as from the day she was let go to the day she started a new job was 6 weeks. But what if it’s been months and the gaps on your CV are growing? Be honest, advises Nicola, but look at areas that you’d be happy to talk about. “You are likely to have other, more positive things to talk about or other people who would happily give you a reference. Play to your strengths”.
Still not sure? “Fill the gaps with other activities, such as voluntary work, or hobbies which involve working in a team. These can help build your character and provide a talking point to make you seem like a better candidate,” says Nicola.
How should you disclose it?
Right, so you know how to fill your CV gaps and that honesty is always the best policy, but how should you explain your firing if you’re asked? There are two things to remember here 1) be respectful when talking about your previous employers, and 2) prove that you’ve learned from your mistakes.
“Most interviewers will ask you about your previous roles, so be prepared to calmly broach the subject in a way that is respectful to your previous employer where possible, as well as diplomatic. You also don’t want to seem like a difficult employee by being overly negative about your last job or the reasons you left – however difficult that may be. Many employers appreciate honesty and maturity, and if you can demonstrate how you’ve learned from previous mistakes, that could turn a bad situation into a positive,” explains Nicola.
If you’ve been fired and are struggling to get a job because of, take Jennifer’s advise and start temping: “It gives you a chance to find out exactly what you enjoy, a bit like changing jobs.” And, she says, try and see the silver lining: “The biggest thing is not to be ashamed of it as there’s no point. It happened, just turn it into something. I look at it now as they did me a favour even if I didn’t realise it at the time. I was stuck in a job I’d been in for over two years and hated, so although I ended up with a horrible mark on my record, I am much better off now knowing that otherwise I’d have just sat there and carried on with it.”
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