Fired? Quit? Laid Off? Never Do These 3 Things

When you're out of work, no matter how you became unemployed, it's tempting to dwell on what happened. That can be a dangerous road to go down, as focusing on the past can prevent you from achieving your future.

Yes, you may get asked about why you're unemployed during a job interview, and it may be tempting to use that as a way to tell your side of the story. That, however, is a bad idea. Take the high road. Offer a factual answer but don't elaborate if at all possible and bring up something positive.

Be upbeat even if you were wronged by your previous employer. Tell the truth but keep it brief, and focus on your desire to find new challenges, not any bitterness you have over what happened.

1. Never disparage your past employer

In many industries, all of the major players -- and maybe even the minor ones -- know each other. The person interviewing you may know your past boss was difficult to work for or that the company has a terrible reputation.

That might lead the interviewer into opening the door to critiquing your past employer by leading off the criticism. Don't take the bait. It's fair to say "there were challenges, but I prefer to focus on what I learned from handling them." Remember that even if the interviewer opens the door, you don't have to walk through it

2. Don't bash your own choices

Focus on the opportunity ahead of you, not what might have gone wrong in the past. You, for example, may regret not leaving years ago -- before a layoff or before market conditions forced you to quit. Don't bring that up. Keep the conversation on the opportunities ahead of you, and use your past to demonstrate how you've built the skills for whatever is next.

It's also important to make it clear that you're excited about your future and not moving on because you have no choice. A lot of journalists, for example, have missed out on opportunities in public relations or other fields, because they spend time during interviews talking about the deterioration of their former profession. Employers want employees who want to be there, not people forced to do something else.

3. Don't be overly wistful

It's fine to express admiration for your past employer. You don't, however, want to act like a jilted boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe you would have been an employee at wherever you worked forever if it was your choice, but your new employer doesn't want to hear that any more than a new person your dating wants to hear how you'd take your ex back in a heartbeat.

It's smarter to focus on the future

Answer any questions you're asked truthfully, but try to make your interview about the future. Lay out how your skills and experience make you a great candidate. Have a positive attitude, even if you just went through some negative things, and let the past be the past.

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