Termination questions

These are questions which bring back memories, and often it's hard to get enthusiastic about answering them.

You do have to answer them, though, and do it well, and convincingly.

Terminations are usually either disputed or undisputed, being those where you consider you were wrongfully terminated, or in the case of the undisputed termination, where you were fired and don't dispute the case.

Disputed terminations

Termination questions really qualify as disputed matters between you and your employer, but you need to make it clear that you have a case of your own.

The rules are simple, but play by them:

  • Never badmouth anyone, particularly a former employer. Complaining about individuals, or any other kind of badmouthing will definitely count against you with any interviewer, even if they're sympathetic to your case. Insults add nothing to an interview, and they definitely won't get you a job.
  • Don't say any more than you need to say about the actual issues. The only relevant story is what happened, like I was terminated because the employer claimed I was taking stock, which I dispute. Saying any more doesn't help explain your case. If you weren't charged with theft, your side of the story is a lot more plausible. Stick to facts, always.
  • If you're taking any action over a termination, say so. It proves you're serious, and if they hire you they'll need to know what's happening at some point.
  • Be clear that you understand the situation yourself, and the way disputes are handled. Termination disputes can be handled by mediation, in house grievance resolution, or a court. It's in your interest to show the interviewers you're aware of these processes, and that you feel strongly enough about your termination to take action. After explaining the nature of the dispute, you then say what you're doing, like I'm waiting to have my dispute heard by….

Undisputed terminations

These are probably the worst, and you have to be honest.

Do not lie about being fired.

It's a sure way of getting fired again.

Again, be clear about the reasons, as per the disputed terminations.

You need to explain your position.

You will remember that getting fired wasn't much fun, and it was because you made some sort of mistake.

That's part of the issue for the interviewers. They have to make a risk assessment in terms of hiring you.

If you were fired for something trivial, just make it clear that you know you made a mistake, and have learned what needed to be learned.

If you were fired for something serious, you don't have too many choices:

  • You can't withhold information, because you could be fired again for that. Basically you'd be lying to their faces.
  • You don't want to make it any worse, either.
  • Unless you get a grip on the problem, you could be unemployed for quite a while.
  • Employers must be able to trust employees. This is a real issue for them, and you should know that.

State the reason for being fired, and make it clear that you realize it was your responsibility, and your mistake.

References and terminations

You do have a few cards to play, after termination, and your references are your best. They can straighten out the employer on the termination, and make a case for you that you can't really make for yourself.

Employers do have to check these things out. If they get a meaningful response from your referees, you may well have solved the problem.