When you left your last position, the door slammed behind you without much ceremony. You didn’t receive a goodbye cake or a golden parachute, and in fact, you were lucky to get out of there with your dignity intact. You weren’t laid off; you were fired. You recognize the difference, and you know that your next employers will recognize it too. So how can you address this delicate subject when you’re asked about it during your interview? Here are a few tips that can help.

Don’t lie.

There’s a strong chance that whatever you say will be taken at face value, and very few potential employers have the time or resources to go back to your previous employer and sort out the exact details of your final conversation. No matter how you tell the story or frame your side, your side is the only side that really matters. But even so, don’t say anything that isn’t true. And if you feel backed into a corner, remember you always have the options of saying nothing at all. See below.

Keep it short.

As in a court of law, much of what you say on this topic can and will be held against you. So don’t say more than you need to. Keep your explanation brief and positive, and if you aren’t asked a direct question about it, don’t bring up this subject at all. Despite common assumptions, employers don’t always need or want to know very much about why you left your last job.

Use the word “fit”.

Framing and word choice go a long way when you’re trying to emphasize some parts of a story and downplay others. Using the word “fired” can cast your story in a negative light, even if the word is accurate. So can phrases like “creative differences”, “butting heads”, “misunderstanding”, and so on. If you need a word to fall back on, use “fit”. As in, “the company and I were not a fit”. Or, “I wasn’t a fit for the culture.”

Stay in control.

If you let your interviewer control the conversation, one question about this subject may lead to another, and then another. But you aren’t on trial, and you have every right to change the subject if and when you’re ready to move on. Steer the focus away from your last job and back toward the skills, talents and credentials that you have to offer to your potential employer.

For more on how to address and then decisively move past a sticky subject during your job interview, reach out to the staffing team at Expert.

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