How to handle an unexpected termination in a job interview?
March 14, 2007 2:12 PM   Subscribe

How to handle an unexpected termination in a job interview?

So, things at work have not been perfect between my (former) boss and me. I had started looking for other opportunities, but had hoped to work things out where I was because it was otherwise a good job. A week ago, I arranged an interview at another company, just in case. Today I was surprised when my boss beat me to the punch and fired me.

I'll be getting severance and everything (I'm being fired without cause), but I could use some thoughts on how to describe the situation in tomorrow's interview. If I'm asked when I can start, it's ASAP, but I don't want the interview to take any wrong turns and get bogged down in a discussion about my abrupt termination. But I don't want to lie either. How do I handle this?
posted by GuyZero to Work & Money (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just say that you got laid-off. It happens to folks all the time.
posted by octothorpe at 2:37 PM on March 14, 2007

Can you tell us a bit more about the situation at your old job?

Don't stress out too bad--I just got semi-fired from a job, I was honest about what happened, and nobody seemed turned off by it. I got a few different job offers, too.
posted by cebailey at 2:45 PM on March 14, 2007

You aren't obligated to discuss the details. What matters is that you are pleasant and professional about it. You were laid off, and you were scheduling interviews already because you saw the writing on the wall. It's a shame about all that, but you're really looking forward to sinking your teeth into something new. Offer no further explanation, don't ramble on, look momentarily sad and then positive about the opportunities ahead of you.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:46 PM on March 14, 2007

Response by poster: While I agree in general, perhaps I should supply some more detail: I worked for a VC-funded software company that right now has open job reqs for jobs that I'm more than qualified for. If it wasn't me, I'd say that you'd have to be really incompetent to get laid off from a company that's probably going to hire over fifty people this year.
posted by GuyZero at 2:50 PM on March 14, 2007

"It wasn't the right fit, but I'm really excited about the opportunities here at XYZ because..."
posted by jacquilynne at 2:53 PM on March 14, 2007

I wouldn't mention it. I just spent all day conducting interviews (really, 8 interviews in one day- I'M EXHAUSTED!); most people had gaps or stops on their resumes- I didn't ask and most didn't tell. Fine by me. I'm a reasonable human being; I understand how things go. Keep your mouth shut and see what happens. I'd be wary of working for someone who makes too big a deal out of it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:55 PM on March 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

I got not-quite-but-essentially fired from a VC-funded start-up software company, after working there for about 2 weeks, and was kind of annoyed at the time but quickly came to the conclusion that it was for the best, since the company was basically run by nuts. This doesn't seem to be an uncommon experience or opinion of such companies.

I got over this by taking on contract work as quickly as possible and then glossing over the nutso company whenever it came up in interviews, where I would use the “it wasn’t a good fit” line, which is a good one because it doesn’t imply undue negativity on either side.

Also: severance? Nice. I never got that.
posted by Artw at 3:37 PM on March 14, 2007

You were laid off

No, he was terminated without cause. Two very specific and different cases as far as Human Resources Development Canada are concerned. "I was laid off" would be a lie, not a stretching of the truth.

I would recommend lying.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:41 PM on March 14, 2007

You could tell them that your portion of the job was complete, implying a "project-based" employment, would that be accurate? Or you could say something about a personality conflict.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:46 PM on March 14, 2007

"It was a VC-funded software startup (implied: you know how those can be), and we both agreed that it wasn't a good fit."
posted by xueexueg at 3:57 PM on March 14, 2007

If you can at all call you former employer a "Web 2.0" company do so, as that will further cement the impression of their flakeyness without seeming like sour grapes.

Rolling your eyes as you do so is optional.
posted by Artw at 4:10 PM on March 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't stress about it beforehand, it may not come up. If it does, the most important thing is that you show your professional attitude. You were already looking to move on to a new challenge, hence the interview. Your termination wasn't abrupt, it was timely. Don't tell them you can start work tomorrow morning, but a week should be OK (and enjoy your few days break). You're right not to want to lie, especially if you are uncomfortable with it as it gives off bad signals. Be enthusiastic, be professional, and be yourself.

Good luck.
posted by Elmore at 4:21 PM on March 14, 2007

I got fired (framed as a lay-off) from a start-up, my boss recommended me to his friend who hired me. A few years later same boss hired me on at a new start-up. It goes around.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:40 PM on March 14, 2007

I always say "a management change brought about a bit of a political departmental reorganization and I got caught in the crossfire.

it sounds so much better than "My new boss thought I was insubordinate and I in turn KNEW he was incompetent"
posted by Megafly at 5:51 PM on March 14, 2007 [4 favorites]

xueexueg has it pegged, even though I cannot pronounce her name.
posted by megatherium at 6:30 PM on March 14, 2007

While I agree in general, perhaps I should supply some more detail: I worked for a VC-funded software company that right now has open job reqs for jobs that I'm more than qualified for. If it wasn't me, I'd say that you'd have to be really incompetent to get laid off from a company that's probably going to hire over fifty people this year.

Are you implying that a potential employer would be able to connect the dots in this way - "how could I be laid off if they are hiring".. It is highly unlikely, just read ThePinkSuperhero's comment for why. You're worrying. Anybody would.
posted by Chuckles at 7:50 PM on March 14, 2007

The hard and fast rule is "never be negative" about past experiences. If pressed, you're supposed to talk about how you learned from the experience and have come to appreciate the challenges faced and the opportunity to reinvent yourself.

But the key phrase is "if pressed".
posted by dobie at 7:59 PM on March 14, 2007

Well, the timing of your setting up the interview and then being fired would certainly support the theory that you were fired because they somehow discovered that you set up an interview for another job. Perhaps there are reasons you know this is definitely not the case, or perhaps you could, in all honesty, say that you were fired a week without cause a week after setting up your interview, and that you wouldn't want to draw a definite conclusion from that, but that the timing was certainly suspicious.
posted by troybob at 9:30 PM on March 14, 2007

How about....

"Jobs are kind of like blind dates....promising, but you really don't know how they're going to work out at the beginning of the evening. The old employer and I both thought we'd be good fits for each other, but quickly decided we were wrong, and decided to part ways".

Puts you in a position of having been a participant in the decision, minimizes it somewhat, doesn't leaving you saying anything bad about the prior job.

Look at every feature of the old boss / job in a positive light, if you can. It's critical to your interviewing (and your own self image) to make this just another experience in your career, and not a huge, overwhelming negative. It's hard to get fired, but it's good to have something that wasn't a good fit in your past as opposed to your future.

Good luck with your new job! Have fun interviewing.
posted by FauxScot at 6:07 AM on March 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you're getting severance, why not say you can start in two week's time so it sounds like you're giving notice at your other place of work? It'll be awhile before you can really take a vacation from your new job.
posted by orange swan at 6:07 PM on March 15, 2007

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