How to answer "have you ever been fired?"

So your job hunt has taken a turn for the better; your CV makes a candidate from The Apprentice look like an illiterate fool, your covering letter is so beautifully written it would bring a tear of joy to Agatha Christie's eye and the interview is going so well you may as well be called Tony Stark.

Then, suddenly one question comes up and all the momentum in your stride crumbles into nothingness. The interviewer has asked you "What caused you to get fired?" This is a dreaded question which seems impossible to answer positively, but suddenly you remember the advice Agency Central gave you and a little bit of swagger returns to your voice.

There are multiple routes in which this question can follow, and one of them is very badly. Once the question has been asked, you'll probably be flooded with anger, fear and hatred, but remember young padawan, these emotions will lead you down the path of the sith and you really want this job. Instead, take a moment to sip some water and calmly begin to explain what happened.

Do you have to be completely truthful?

But could you not just lie? Surely that seems like the easy route? You get to dodge the question and your potential employer doesn't have to know about the events that led to your employment contract being terminated. This can only end badly. On the odd chance that the employer doesn't check your history with any of your previous employers, you'll have to spend the rest of your time at the company sitting on an office chair built of lies until you eventually spill the beans at the office Christmas party, ruining the credibility your career was built upon.

The incident could have occurred when you were younger, at the start of your professional life in which case you can usually palm it off as the folly of youth and not having your priorities straight. However, if it was a recent job a more indepth analysis of the sacking will be required; did you not meet your goals? Or did you slack on job responsibilities?  

Whatever the cause was, now is the time to come clean about it, gently tell your interviewer what happened and then focus on explaining what you've learnt from this scenario and how you've taken measures to ensure it never happens again.

If you were made redundant in your previous job, that becomes slightly easier to explain. Your department may have been outsourced, or maybe you were let go due to financial reasons. The point here is that you weren't fired, you were made redundant due to the company's decisions and not due to your performance.

So is positivity and honesty the best route?

An important thing to remember when you answer this daunting question is to never criticise the company or your previous bosses - you don't want to come across as bitter. The best way to handle it is to be brief - a long, detailed answer will inevitably lead to becoming tongue tied and saying the wrong thing, plus you may end up making it seem like a bigger issue than you'd like it to appear. Ultimately, this could bring you to ruin in the interview you were doing so well in.

They say honesty is the best policy, which in this case it is, so if you're asked in about previous terminations in an interview, don't panic! Be concise, calm and make sure to focus on what you learnt from the experience. Your future employers will be happy to see you being honest and you'll have turned a potentially disastrous question into a positive success. However if your interviewer fails to bring it up during an interview, you should definitely forget all about it; there's no need to introduce yourself as 'the guy who got fired from his last job.'

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