Tough Interview Question - Have you ever been fired from a job or asked to resign?

Have you ever been fired from a job or asked to resign?

Similar interview questions:
Have you ever had performance issues in your work?
Are there any gaps in your employment history?
Have you ever been part of a layoff?
Is there any point in your career where you were involuntarily terminated?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is being bold in asking this question. It often catches candidates off guard, since they do not expect it to be asked. There is no issue with the interviewer asking the question (legally or otherwise), although you are not required to give all details, especially if you have been fired or let go in the past. The interviewer is attempting to determine if anything took place in your past employment which warranted termination of employment. If yes, this will be a red flag to the interviewer. It isn’t necessarily a dead end, but depending on the answer, it may warrant further exploration in reference checking and general background checking for verification.

The best approach to answering this question:
If you have not been fired or asked to leave a job (which is often the case for candidates in their first job after college), the answer is a simple “No” and the interviewer will typically move on to the next question. But if you have a gap in your employment, the interviewer may choose to further probe that gap. If you were laid off, state the circumstances, but also note that the employer may probe to find out who was not laid off to differentiate why you were chosen for the layoff. You are best to keep your answers brief and focus forward.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"Two jobs ago, I was part of a general layoff that took place companywide. I will admit that I didn’t think any pending layoffs would affect me in my role, since I had just been ranked #1 nationally in that role. However, the company decided to remove that entire level from the structure of the firm, so literally everyone at my level was laid off. Because I was not actively looking for another role, it did take me a couple of months before I landed in my current role…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"I have never been fired, but I did have a summer job after my freshman year where I was let go halfway through the summer due to general cutbacks at the company. I will admit that I was devastated at the time, but it was due to being considered a part-time seasonal employee and all of the seasonal employees were let go in a cost cutting measure. It was already too late in the summer to find another full-time job, so I ended up working for my Mom in her business. But the next summer I was determined to get a proper internship and did. Then I got another great internship this past summer. Both of those internships are closely tied to my major and this role…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Yeah, I got fired from my last job, but it wasn’t my fault. In fact, I sued them and took them to court. I lost the case on a technicality, but I’m going to be filing an appeal…"

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these 100 Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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