Getting fired or laid off does not have to dampen your job search success. Just make sure that you approach the topic in a smart way and it will not end your career.


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Some people believe that if they have ever been terminated, they must communicate this on their resume and in interviews, in order to be fair and honest. Worse yet, they believe it is a stigma on their career that must be carried forever. This is simply not true.

Naturally anyone reading a resume indicating a person was fired would want to know why. They may very well assume the worst and decide not to call, even though the reason may have had nothing to do with them personally, and could simply have resulted from a decline in the business. In such a case, the potential employee is actually misleading the potential employer by giving only half the story... the negative part.

Mindset

Remember that hundreds of thousands of people have been terminated for reasons having nothing to do with their personal performance or character. Employers are aware of this.

Also, you have no obligation to volunteer information about why you left any position. In the event that you do discuss it, your responsibility is to sell your credentials in the most positive manner, up to your maximum potential. It is the "buyer's" responsibility to determine if there is a better candidate. Properly handled, references will usually not hinder your efforts to win new employment.

Resume

On the resume, do not address your reasons for leaving any position, other than introducing some positions by noting that you were recruited to them.

Be sure to emphasize achievements and contributions, any recognition or awards, and your personal strengths as they relate to "people skills." Include a visible statement that you have enthusiastic references with respect to performance and character.

Interviews / e-mail / Letters

Negative information about your termination usually will become known only if you reveal it. Never provide any information in correspondence and interviews that might harm your cause. Whatever deficiencies your former employer may have perceived, there have to be positive contributions you made to offset them. Focus solely on the positives.

If the subject is introduced into discussion, a truthful statement that it was due to factors beyond your control and not related to your performance, will almost always suffice. Also make clear that you left the employer on good terms.

Be ready to focus on the positives in other ways. Direct the conversation to those areas where the employer needs good talent, and then give examples of how you have contributed in those areas. The best way to do that is with situation-action-result format stories which show you know how to size up situations and take actions which get results.

Toward the end of the interview, if you have taken the action steps recommended here, you will be able to make a statement such as, "You've heard about me from me, but you really need to hear about me from people who were in a position to see how I performed. It would be to my benefit if you did, and I hope you contact them." The confidence you exhibit and the positive implications of that statement will help offset the potential negatives of a termination.

Actions

Examine your past contributions closely, and take sufficient time to prepare and rehearse several action-oriented stories that demonstrate your talent for moving rapidly to get results in the types of situations that resemble those likely to be faced by the person who wins the job you are seeking.

Look for as many specific result indications as possible. Be prepared to give a wealth of evidence in the form of these memorable stories. They will reassure the prospective employer that you were a valued contributor despite any terminations.

Develop and coach enthusiastic references from selected individuals you can trust inside your current and former employer organizations, if possible, and from outside of it, e.g., customers, suppliers, sales reps, consultants, etc., who will be happy to attest to your ability to deliver results.

Review your resume with these references, and make sure they keep a copy available to scan when and if they are called. You can if you choose give them "special assignments," where in addition to an overall enthusiastic endorsement, each of them will be expected to emphasize a different strength or ability in a special functional area.

This step will enable you to make the statement in an interview that, "You've heard about my achievements, but only from me. You really need to hear it from people who have seen me in action. Experience in Function X is important to you, and for that I suggest you contact Mary Jones. Experience in Function Y is also essential, and for that you'll get good input from Phil White. Personal traits A and B are needed for this job, and the people who would know best about that are Sue Griffith and Tom Robbins." It would be to my benefit if you contact all of them, and I hope you will." Such a statement will erase any lingering doubts about your ability to perform that may have arisen from the terminations.

If you suspect you may have trouble with negative references, read the recommendations for handling that liability, and implement them.

If you aren't already familiar with them, conduct research on any industry and companies you are targeting, using the Internet and/or resources in the Business Reference section of a good library. It will be to your advantage to write a small article about the major trends in that industry as they affect someone in the function you are targeting, whether it is purchasing, sales, production, marketing, finance, customer service, information systems, or any other function.

In this way, you take the focus of the discussion totally away from questioning past terminations, toward specific ways you might contribute to the potential employer in a selected function. The anticipation and excitement that are often generated in such future-oriented, constructive discussions can play a key role in a positive hiring decision.


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