Ask the Career Counseling Expert: How Do I Tell an Employer I was Fired?
I was fired from my last job. I was the account rep for a major client. The client invited me to his home for dinner. I'm 35. He introduced me to his daughter, who at the time had just turned 18. We started a relationship. I'm not married; she's of age. When her father found out, he demanded that I be terminated or he'd close his account. So my boss fired me. The funny thing is, her mother did not mind! Employers, HR staff, recruiters, all ask me why I left my last job. When I say I was fired, that pretty much ends my candidacy. What should I do?
Here's a little secret: The person who is interviewing you may have been fired from a job, or may have a friend who was fired. It happens. The problem, unless you did something unbelievably objectionable, isn't what you did but how you deal with it.
To answer your question, this is what I would advise you to say. It is based on a three-point strategy: tell the truth, assume responsibility, and explain what you learned from the situation. So, next time you are asked, try this:
"First, I'm not married. My largest client invited me to his home. I met his daughter. We started going out. He did not know. When he found out, he demanded that I be fired. I was fired.
"Her father was upset because of the difference in our ages. And he felt that my behavior was unprofessional. To tell the truth, my heart got the better of my head. He was right and I deserved to be fired. That's what makes me a better employee. Because of this, my moral compass has been recalibrated and is permanently pointing due North."
And then, shut up. Less is more and you can talk yourself into a corner. If they ask how old she was, tell the truth and point out that she was of age. Then, and only then, should you mention that her mother was fine with the relationship. You don't want to do it sooner because you don't want it to sound like your dismissal was unjustified. It's a judgment call.
Thanks for writing.
If you have any questions you would like answered, send them to Bruce Hurwitz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymity is guaranteed.