Getting fired is one of the most stressful events that can occur in an executive’s career. It generally brings up a lot of negative emotions relating to one’s value and sense of their self worth. The first thing to do is evaluate the reason you were fired. Was this a matter of redundancy created by an acquisition/merger, incompatibility between you and someone in the company, corporate bureaucracy, or was this a result of your inability to do the job? If it was the former, there’s most likely nothing you can do about those matters, however if it was the latter, you may want to consider pursuing leadership coaching or a training program. It’s important to be clear about the reason before you start interviewing.
Give yourself some time to come to terms with the initial shock and regroup. The typical emotional cycle involves panic and fear, shock and disbelief, anger and depression, bargaining, and finally acceptance. Being aware of your emotional state can help you move through the process more quickly. If you find yourself stuck in one of these cycles, be sure to seek professional help.
A few questions you can ask yourself include: “How can I look at this in a positive light?” “What good can come of this?” “How could this be an opportunity for change and growth?” “In what way is this a blessing?” Write down the answers to these questions and review them frequently to help you regain and maintain a positive frame of mind.
When you interview, volunteer the fact that you were fired. Being proactive about the matter will demonstrate your integrity and fortitude. You’ll want to speak about it factualy, without any resentment or remorse. Honesty is the best policy. In this economic environment, you most likely won’t be grilled too harshly due to the severe cutbacks that have occurred.
Keep your explanation regarding why you were fired brief and to the point. Provide a high-level reason for your departure. Don’t go into a long, rambling story. There’s no need to go into a lot of detail. Keep your explanation positive and do not blame anyone or say anything negative about the company, your boss, or anyone in the company.
If the firing was a result of the company’s immoral or illegal activities that you refused to participate in, you might say: “There were some activities being endorsed that were incongruent with my values. I’ll provide more detail once we decide if this position is a good fit. At this point, I feel it would be inappropriate to share the company’s internal operating policies.
If the firing was your fault, provide a high-level explanation followed by what you learned from the incident and what you’ll do differently in the future. Being able to reflect on something that went wrong and learn from your mistakes is a sign of a true leader. If you’ve taken some steps to insure this incident won’t happen again or enrolled in a program to develop advanced skills, share this with the interviewer as well.
Crafting a strategy in advance and offering a compelling success story complete with a strong value proposition will help you conquer the glitch.