unemployed but winning!
October 2, 2011 4:44 PM   Subscribe

I got fired Friday for poor performance. How do I spin this in cover letters and in interviews?

Well, it finally happened. My company gave me the ol' boot on Friday because I wasn't able to perform up to their standards. Not "laid off," but "fired." Ok, whatever. I'm moving on. I'm making new cover letters, a totally redesigned resume, and will be going to temp agencies tomorrow.

Here are some of my questions:

1. This job may appear as a fluff job or like I'm job hopping, as I was there less than a year. How should I situate it on my resume? It also was a job that didn't teach me any appreciable skills in anything I could use outside of a warehouse setting.

2. How do I cover this in a cover letter without directly speaking about my short tenure with that company as it is my most current work experience?

3. What's a good way to spin this in interviews?
posted by santojulieta to Work & Money (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "It wasn't a good fit for me" is reasonable.
posted by scruss at 5:14 PM on October 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

the very first thing to find out is what the company says to people who call to verify your employment. have a friend call, ask for your time of employment and the circumstances surrounding your departure. chances are, like most companies, they are risk adverse and will have a handy kiss off phrase. if this is the case, "it wasn't a good fit" is perfect. however, there is a small chance of overshare and cattiness and you need to know that up front.
posted by nadawi at 5:19 PM on October 2, 2011 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Posting something on a public forum (like this one) isn't something I'd recommend. Employers are getting more and more savvy about screening applicants by using web-searches.

I'd (at least) scrub your user profile.
posted by jpburns at 5:21 PM on October 2, 2011

Best answer: Can you reorganize your resume so that the more relevant positions are listed first? For some people that works better than a chronological resume and can help de-emphasize a job that might raise a red flag.
posted by pourtant at 5:22 PM on October 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

First of all, don't answer any question that isn't asked. You don't need to mention this unless they directly ask what the circumstances were surrounding your leaving.

If they do, you can say "The position was significantly different than advertised, and did not play to my strengths. The company came to recognize this and let me go." The exact wording needs to depend on the circumstances, but the important thing is to not cast blame on anyone including yourself.

Does the job have any relevance to the field you're looking in now? If not, you can always just leave it off. If they ask what you've been doing in the time not represented on your resume, say "Temp work to pay the bills," or whatever.
posted by KathrynT at 6:09 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think the best approach is to pretend like it never happened, unless they ask, and then you mention that it was a job you took because you needed a job, but it wasn't a good fit, and that is why you didn't stay.
posted by markblasco at 6:22 PM on October 2, 2011

I would not choose the route of having a friend call (and lie). At least before I did that, I would ask the company what they planned to say when others call. They may provide you with a party line that you want to echo ("not the right fit"). You may be able push them toward such a line ("my plan is not to focus on how things ended up with you guys" -- which they will like to hear -- "but it would be helpful for me to know how you will react when another company calls for a reference check, and I am assuming you will say that it wasn't a good fit and that we mutually agreed that I should pursue other opportunities").

I also wouldn't invent stuff about the position not being as advertised, unless it's both true and something they would acknowledge.

Most companies want to let you drift away as painlessly as possible, and you shouldn't screw that up.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:36 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

The key thing to remember, I think, is that when interviewers ask about previous employers, they're putting themselves in the employer's shoes. So the worst thing to do is be defensive or take the opportunity to complain about previous management.

So, offer a vague one-liner, and don't elaborate.
posted by zompist at 8:29 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

When you go in looking for a job, if they ask about your old job, a lot of the time what they want to know if hiring you will bring enough seething bitterness into their shop to turn it into a EPA superfund site. They don't so much care why you left - they want to know what you can do for them.

Ask yourself why your performance didn't match their expectations. Were they just looking for excuses to get rid of someone and raising the bar until they could? Were their expectations unrealistic? Was the job slowly crushing your soul? Did you not have the skill set you needed? There's pretty much a universally understood code word for every one of these situations.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:14 PM on October 2, 2011

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