Choose Your Words Carefully

When you are looking for your next career position, remember the four important words above. What you say will be remembered for a long, long time.

If you were laid off from a previous position because of incompatibility with your boss be very careful how you answer the question “Were you ever fired?” or “Why did you leave your last position?”. No matter what you say after the words “I was fired”, the interviewer has deep-sixed your chances for employment with that company. If you had a disagreement with your supervisor, inherited a new supervisor who brought their own team or your boss was capricious (always looking for a reason to make life miserable for someone), then how you answer

  • Were you fired?
  • Why did you leave your last position?

will be crucial to a successful career search. If you’re moaning about political correctness, yes that’s what I’m talking about. The world of work involves politics, positioning and verbally painting the right picture for future success.

Suggested answers to “Were you fired?” and/or “Why did you leave your last position?”

  1. I have not lost a job due to poor performance. As my resume reflects, my department made significant contributions to the bottom line profitability of the company.
  2. My previous boss had a history of unusual personnel decisions. I did not know that at the time I went to work for him/her. Having said that, I feel good about the contributions, documented in my résumé, that I made while I was there.
  3. It was a mutual decision for me to leave the company. Two of my co-workers are references.
  4. When the new manager came on board, he very quickly made the necessary adjustments to bring on his own team. I was caught in the restructuring.
  5. In looking back, I realize there was a misunderstanding with my boss which I did not pick up on at the time. I have learned from that experience.

For some of you reading this article, I can hear you say “Yes, but you don’t know who I worked for”. No I don’t, but in my 20+ years as a career adviser, I have had clients who were sure their previous bosses were direct descendents of Hitler or Attila the Hun. I know there are bad bosses in today’s workforce. I also know each of us, at some time, has tripped up in our career because we didn’t take the time to stop and think either before we acted or before we opened our mouth. Learning from those experiences and reframing your answer to either question above will move you forward in the hiring process.

Under no circumstances, should you write about it on your webpage. Facebook/YouTube/ MySpace/LinkedIn/Naymz/Plaxo/et al are open books that can be read by everyone including someone in the company that just interviewed you for a new opportunity.

Remember: Don’t get discouraged, don’t give up and don’t tell all!!!

Guest Expert:

Kay Stout is Managing Partner with PS Consulting. She is also an Executive Advisor with Oklahoma Professional Search. She has been instrumental in providing professional career transition and consulting services to the business community since 1986. From 1995 to 2002 she was Vice President of the Oklahoma City office of Right Management Consultants, a global human resource organization that helps companies manage their human investment capital to meet bottom-line objectives.

Her varied career includes working with the engineers who built the Atlas Missile Sites and the KMAG engineers in Korea. She utilized her musical education from the University of Wyoming through private teaching and performance. She then engaged in work to build non-profit organizations as well as special assignments on political campaigns. She has traveled with former First Lady Shirley Bellmon to promote Home Based Business throughout the state and chaired a committee that significantly changed the socio-economic division of a public school system. Furthermore, she has hosted “Your Career Connection” for KTOK radio.

Check out her blog at

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