"Every problem is a gift. Without problems, we would not grow."
Anthony robbins

Showing Resilience after being fired and answering tough interview questions

So you were fired…join the club.  Many great leaders have been fired in their careers.  Steve Jobs, J.K Rowling, Bill Belichick, and Oprah… to name a few. Hard to believe that someone looked them in the eye and said, “you aren’t good enough to work here.”

They probably went through the same emotions…disbelief, anger, bruised ego, etc.  If you haven’t been through this, you are not immune. It can happen to anyone. Some people recover quickly and move on to bigger, better things, while others get stuck in the mud.

The question becomes, how do you react to a negative situation and how do you handle questions that come up during your networking or interviewing process?  As a sales recruiter, I speak with at least one candidate each day that has been fired at some point.  Some folks are fantastic at smoothly addressing the situation and others make things worse by falling into the traps.  

Key take-aways to survive and advance…

1)   Avoid fabricating an elaborate story - Most recruiters will tell you they could write a book about the bizarre sagas they have heard to explain away a firing.  I am sure a few of these are accurate, but most of them come across as made-up fairy tales. For example, I had a guy recently tell me that he was the #1 rep at the company; but the boss’s wife had a crush on him, so he was fired. Another rep told me that she was a president’s club winner at fortune 50 company for 3 straight years but was fired for being late to one case. As you can imagine, these stories were met with a level of skepticism by the manager.  

2)   Handle the situation head-on – Most hiring managers are aware that bad things can happen to good people.  Admitting that you made a mistake or that a sales metric was not met can actually be incredibly endearing.  I love this direct explanation that I got from a candidate when I asked him why there was a gap on his resume a few years ago…

“I was a great medical sales rep, but I took a role selling a unique piece of capital equipment that didn’t jive with my skillset.  I was not successful with that company, but I learned a valuable lesson about my strengths and weaknesses. Since then, I have thrived in the disposable side of medical sales”.  

3)   Don’t ever say “I have no idea why I was let go” – Pretending to be completely oblivious comes across as very low on the emotional intelligence scale. High performers are NOT let go for no reason!  If they are, there is normally some type of explanation that is shared upon termination. No one is buying the CLUELESS routine.

4)   Do not dwell on a negative – Take 30-60 seconds to address the situation and then quickly move on. Explain how this turned into a “blessing in disguise” or elaborate on the lessons you learned from your failures.  The more time you allocate to a negative situation, the more you are shining a light on it.  One or two missteps on a resume will be easily overlooked if you stay focused on the successes of your career.

5)   Be careful claiming you got mad and quit - Painting yourself as “a take this job and shove it” type personality may make you feel better (ie... It was my decision to leave). That said, it can also make you look like an impetuous hothead who is prone to irrational decisions.  I have heard managers say that someone who recklessly quits after a bad day at the office is worse than a rep who finds themselves on the wrong end of a performance improvement plan.

6)   Explain the “why” without making excuses – There are times when all sales professionals find themselves in tough situations. When that happens, it is okay to highlight the challenges and then humbly discuss unmet business objectives (for you or the company). I understand that making excuses is a natural defense mechanism but be careful that it doesn’t come across as whining.

For many of us, getting fired, downsized, or laid off can be the GREATEST BLESSING you will ever experience in your career.  Remember that some of the brightest minds and hardest workers have been fired (See image above).   There is nothing to be ashamed of.  Own it and learn from it.


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