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How should I answer "have you ever been fired or asked to resign?"

How should I answer "have you been fired or asked to resign?"I know some are going to say "you have to answer honestly." I understand that point of view. It sounds like a great answer if it's not your problem.

What if the honest answer to  "have you ever been fired or asked to resign" virtually guarantees that I won't be hired?

What if the detail as to why, is not really finesse-able? Such as, there's no making it sound better without making it up?

Also, are prospective employers under some other ethical rubric from prospective employees? One always reads about applicants having to be 100% honest, but most questions I've ever asked an interviewer provoke answers that cannot be counted on, aren't all that complete or accurate, and at best vague as compared to reality. Including but not limited to:

"When can I expect a response?"

"When are you looking to fill this position?"

"What does the position pay?" (which always gets trumped or deflected by "How much did you make in your last job?" and "what are your compensation requirements?")

"What kind of experience are you looking for in this position?"

"What kind of person would be successful in this position?"

"What are the opportunities for advancement?"

Okay, I'll admit, I'm a little frustrated with the whole interviewing process! I go back to my original question, How should i answer "have you ever been fired or asked to resign?"


(Director of Global Accounting) |

"I worked at company X, but it wasn't a fit." As in, you didn't say yes, but you answered honestly.

If pressed, say "no". It is a macro-filter question. Even if it can be finessed (I was sixteen, the machine broke when I was using it, my boss was fired six months later because s/he was literally nuts, etc.) it is still a red flag, and they are all red. I know people who have dodged such filters, but it is a nightmare.

I hate to say "lie like a dog"...but they wouldn't ask that if they didn't plan on using it against you. And it *ain't* like saying "I have an MBA from Harvard"...a more relevant piece of information.

Except for the "what does it pay", they should answer all of those questions, or at least be pleased that you asked.

The what does it pay frames you don't want to come across as looking for money. But, if asked, don't hedge. Think of a fair number, and ask for 10% more. Whoever sets the negotiating starting point controls the probable range of outcomes. Do say "it sounds like $35/hour is fair for this role, is that accurate" as opposed to "I won't work for less than $35/hour." The first focuses on value delivered, the second on your needs.



Sarah Jackson
Title: Associate Editor
Company: Proformative
(Associate Editor, Proformative) |

Proformative offers 400+ business courses with free CPE, many on career advancement.

Topic Expert
Henry Schumann
Title: Manager FP&A
Company: Allscripts
(Manager FP&A, Allscripts) |

From the easier said than done department, you have got to get over your interviewing frustration. It sounds to me that your interviewing approach is more of an issue than whether you've been fired in the past.

Since 2008, lots of people have been let go with the financial melt down. It is neither a badge of honor nor a limiting factor in the hiring process. Trust me, I have the careers scars to prove it.

Approach each interview as if you are trying to seize upon a great opportunity and be able to demonstrate how your skills and experiences can be used to be successful in the role and help you grow to even bigger roles in the future.

Finally, don't ever mention compensation in the interview. How much the potential employer is willing to pay is $0 until you are selected as the best candidate for the position. So focus on demonstrating that you are the best person for the job.

Best of luck in finding your next position. It will come. (probably multiple offers will come at the same time.)

Sara Voight
Title: Controller
Company: Critical Signal Technologies, Inc
(Controller, Critical Signal Technologies, Inc) |

Been there, done that. I was lucky when let go from a position to be able to say I wasn't given a reason and then give them the contact information for my last supervisor. It was in the delivery (not cocky, not defensive, not feeble) that helped me get beyond the question. Talking too much gets you in trouble.

I phrased my response along the lines of: "I did leave my prior position before I was ready. When I asked why I was let go, they would not give me a reason but I would be happy to include my boss's contact information for you to speak to him - he is the President. At the time I left X Corp, I was already actively interviewing for new opportunities as the culture was not a good fit for me. I am looking for a challenge where I can......."

On the prospective employer's answers to you: 1) Never introduce salary. Your research should give you insight on what range they are in. If you are too high for this company but make a really good impression, their professional friend might call you with something. 2) How long until you make a decision and get back to me. I would love it if people moved as fast as they say they will. I interviewed someone two weeks ago and I am stuck with HR for them to finish the review of the already approved (by the CEO) job description so we can proceed with an offer letter. At other positions, as much as I needed someone right away I could only carve out so much time for interviews and the rest of my canceled dinners with family, canceled weekend trips, and evenings at home were spent trying to keep up with the workload and pending deadlines. What can you do to make your prospective boss's life easier, even with the hiring process. If you have this type of negative attitude when interviewing it will filter into your worklife at some point.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

Why not turn the question around and ask if anyone can honestly say they never failed (not fired, which is in itself a failure of both you and your superior as well as the hiring manager and a whole host of other people and/or roles).

So you turn the question into failure. Since everyone has failed at something (from cooking spaghetti to understanding quantum physics), you now have the opportunity to use the psycho-babble of "the question is did I learn from my mistakes, sure, because that is one of the factors that enable us to grow as humans".

Robert Honeyman
Title: CFO
Company: Advanced Predictive Analytics
(CFO, Advanced Predictive Analytics) |

The purpose of the job search process is to maximize your chance of getting an offer. If you've gotten to the point of getting interviewed, you're doing pretty well.

Once you're in the interview, I think you need to treat it as a conversation, not an ordeal. When the interviewer asks that question, they're likely less interested in the short form answer and more interested in how you manage the answer. We all want to like the folks with whom we engage. If you present your answer in a confident, non-defensive manner, you give the interviewer a chance to relate to you and your story.

You ask, "What if the detail as to why, is not really finesse-able? Such as, there's no making it sound better without making it up?" If you were caught stealing or were fired for fraud, you're may not belong in accounting. But short of criminal offenses, there are always ways of constructing a narrative that does not paint you as unhirable.

I was working for a small company in an impossible situation some 20 years ago. We took an inventory audit and we were off by a massive amount. Looking back on it, it's clear that theft was taking place. But I had a single cost accountant to help manage an inventory with close to 10,000 SKUs.

I spent weeks running different analyses trying to reconcile what happened. I recall at least two all-nighters. It was absolute hell. In the end, I was fired a day before I had intended to give notice.

I felt horrible about the whole experience. It took me a while to narrow my story down to something very simple: the job was not a good fit. It turns out that my replacement was the fourth CFO in six years at the company. I used that to explain that both the job and the working environment made success difficult. Time to move on.

As for the other questions you ask, try to reach the end of the interview smiling. If you enjoy the conversation, you're less likely to feel the tension that leads to a sense of contention. Then, your questions fall more into the category of, "oh, by the way."

Oh, by the way, while it would be nice if hiring firms were compulsive about responding. But we're all human and we all have really busy schedules. It's not that companies lie, equivocate, or don't care. It's that committing to a new hire can be difficult and it sometimes takes emotional energy to pull the trigger. Schedules slip and we, the folks praying for that job, suffer from the silence.

The best thing you can do is remember that when you're a hiring manager.

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

Far too many look at interviewing as something that needs little-to-no preparation. In fact, it requires hours of prep and all of your answers should (must) be rooted in your tangible value to a prospective company ... how you have solved the kinds of problems it is having, and the impact that had on previous companies.

With regard to having been fired. DO. NOT. LIE. Do not exaggerate. Do not talk too much. But, the truth can be discovered and when it is, the impact will be far greater to your career than if you handled the truth carefully.

In today's volatile and crazy job market, it isn't necessarily the firing as much as it is what you learned from the experience and what you will do differently as a result. Spend the least amount of time on the firing and the most on lesson learned and how you will use it. Don't ramble, don't over-explain, provide the facts and then shut those lips. :)

And remember, VALUE is the great mitigator. If you can solve a company's problems and you have learned from your failure(s), the "firing" carries much less weight;

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: VP, Thought Leadership
Company: Stampli
LinkedIn Profile
(VP, Thought Leadership, Stampli) |

Let's keep it simple, if you can't honestly answer a question then this may not be the company at which you want to work. You should have a short, concise answer ready and then quickly pivot the conversation. Being evasive sends the wrong signal, and an honest, concise answer sends the right message to a company that is worthy of your honesty.

(Manager) |

Could you honestly say something like, "we both came to the conclusion that it wasn't a good fit at about the same time. I moved on to a much more interesting and challenging position, which taught me the value of taking the right job, not just the first job."

Short and sweet - not the least bit defensive.

I don't know, how does that sound? I think a lot depends on how you say it. If you can say something like that with full confidence, it could be a real plus.

If it's not true, it will be harder to practice your way into a confident delivery and then it poses other potential risks as noted above.

Finally, I don't recall ever being asked that question. Although possible, I wouldn't focus on it as a deep dark fear, because that will affect how you present yourself in the interview.

As mentioned above, try to look at the interview not so much as a minefield, but a possibly interesting conversation. The worst that can happen is you don't get the job and you already don't have the job.

Thus, it's all upside from here. Let it go.


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