Whether it’s a layoff, termination or abrupt resignation, chances are you’ll have to face a blemish on your employment record at least once in your life. Sure competition in the job market is tough and you’ll certainly have to go the extra mile to explain mistakes or blips to employers, but all is not lost. To increase your chances of getting hired, be prepared and get your story straight.
Four years ago Nicole K. Webb, a Human Resource professional, resigned from what many would consider a dream job. At 28-years-old, she was earning an annual salary of $80,000; however, she was unhappy and overwhelmed. Within two months of leaving her employer, she secured a better opportunity, and started her very own Consulting and Career Coaching business, NK Webb Group LLC. Nicole shares her tips on communicating your career history–flaws and all.
- Find out where you stand with the past organization – Are you eligible for rehire or are you on the company’s “black list?” Having this information will determine how you can respond to questions during an interview with a potential employer. For instance, if you’re eligible for rehire, you’re able to say that you were separated from a particular position, but are welcome to rejoin the organization. You may even get permission to use your former employer as a reference; after all, it’s possible that you were a good employee – just not right for the job you had. However, if you’re not eligible for rehire, you can still include the organization on your resume or job application; however, note that your potential employer does not have permission to contact your previous employer. Instead, include the contact information for your previous employer’s human resources department. They’ll be able to provide a neutral reference, meaning they’ll verify your hire date, job title, salary, and separation date.
- Document your experience briefly and professionally – While crafting your resume or job application, Instead of saying, “I was fired or I quit,” phrase it formally: “My previous employer chose to exercise their right to end my employment with their organization.” You should also avoid disclosing all of the information you have regarding your termination this early in the hiring process. Not only can over-explaining the situation in writing make for a bad first impression, it’s more likely to be taken out of context and be misunderstood. Instead, note in the document that you’d be willing to supply additional details regarding the termination if needed.
- Take ownership of your termination or resignation – During the interview, be prepared. People have a tendency of pointing fingers at everyone but themselves, but it’s extremely important, not only during the hiring process, but also for your own professional development, to be able to identify your successes as well as your failures. Taking responsibility for your shortcomings displays your level of professional maturity. It lets potential employers know that you’re self-aware. It shows that you’ve learned a lesson and are willing to improve going forward. These are ideal traits for any job candidate, regardless of the position or field.
- Choose your words carefully – Speaking negatively about a former employer only shows your lack of trustworthiness and loyalty. It also exposes the type of employee you would be if hired: a problem. No employer wants to hire a “problem employee” who will negatively impact the company morale. So you don’t risk saying something you shouldn’t, it’s best to come prepared to give an explanation and to keep that explanation short, simple, focused on the positive, and always moving forward. Only answer questions that you’re asked and keep bringing the conversation back to the lessons you’ve learned and how they’ve made you a better employee overall.
Nicole was also featured on Careeranista.com—“Heels of Success” column regarding her success as a millennial HR professional.
Do you have any tips on explaining a blemish on your employment record? If so, leave me a comment below.