When you apply for a new job, you want to demonstrate you can handle the daily requirements of the role, but you also want to prove you’re a relatable and trustworthy person.

Most of us already know trust arises from a candidate’s friendliness, kindness, sense of humor and communication skill. But here’s another fact about trust: We tend to trust people who are interesting. Being a grounded, well-rounded person with the calm that comes from life experience can help you gain trust and convince employers to bring you on board. And much of this quality comes from an ironic source: the setbacks and failures you’ve encountered in the past and how you’ve dealt with them.

Put another way, interesting people are those who have struggled, aimed too high, failed, been fired, faced obstacles and grown as individuals. If you’ve been terminated from a job, use that experience to showcase your ability to handle the challenges of life and the professional workplace. Here’s how.

Don’t hide your termination.

You can choose not to mention it until the subject comes up, which is fine. But when it DOES come up, don’t make the slightest attempt to hide the truth or spin the story. Don’t make excuses (It wasn’t my fault, my team let me down, my boss was a jerk, etc.). And don’t frame the incident as a layoff or restructuring decision that had nothing to do with your performance (unless it was). Simply be upfront and explain the job wasn’t a fit.

Don’t talk for too long.

While you should always speak the truth without spin or embellishment, the story is yours to tell. If there are details you care not to share, it’s your right to keep them to yourself. Your story can be exactly as long or short as you choose … so keep it short. Explain enough to answer your employer’s questions, and then move forward.

Switch gears to what you learned.

As soon as you’re finished talking about what happened surrounding the events of your termination, move on to describe what the incident taught you. If you gained any technical knowledge, start with that. Then discuss what you learned about broader topics, like the nature of work, how to achieve success in this industry (and how not to), and how to contend with difficult situations or people. If you’ve become a stronger, smarter or more effective employee as a result of the termination, now is the time to share this fact and explain.

People love good stories, and employers are no exception. When you’re terminated from a job, you’re given a kind of gift: an interesting story about your own personal setback, how you overcame it and how you became a stronger candidate as a result. For more on how to share your story and use it to your advantage, turn to the job search team at Extension.


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