Here is a question I came across last week on Reddit:
I was recently fired from a part-time bookkeeping job and replaced by someone with more experience who can do the job faster than I could. I graduated and am now looking for a full-time job in accounting. What do I say about this previous job when it comes up in an interview?
Handling questions about things like this in an interview is tough because you can’t help but feel ashamed about being let go, and you certainly don’t like admitting it to a complete stranger in an already stressful situation.
Here is how I’d coach this person on handling this situation in future interviews in a way that not only completely owns the fact that they were let go, but also makes it work in their advantage:
Turn this into a growth story.
- Pick the top three things the new bookkeeper is better at than you. Be specific and concrete.
- Come up with a plan for improving on all three things over the next month. Make every day next month a non-zero day.
- Set up a quick website on WordPress and blog about it along the way. Document your work. Work out loud. Show people what you are doing. Write a post every single day about what you learned, what you tried, which tools and software you used, and what your next steps are. Make short video tutorials with Loom for software you are learning or quick ways to accomplish common tasks. Put this content out on your personal website and all of your social media channels. When someone searches your name before inviting you to an interview (and they will), make sure they see that you are serious and consistent about learning new skills and improving yourself.
- In interviews: Completely own the fact that you were replaced with a more senior bookkeeper who was better than you at the job, and there was only room for one on the payroll. So you took the next month to kick it into high gear and improve your skills, which you are now ready and excited to do for this company. You know that you have something to prove, so offer to do a trial period for lower pay, during which you completely blow them away.
People love growth and consistency. Being honest and showing that kind of hustle in the face of a disappointment is a definite plus when making a hiring decision. Being ashamed, trying to hide being fired, and not doing anything concrete to improve yourself for the next opportunity does the exact opposite. Those candidates get rejected every single time.