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Fired? How to Discuss This During your Next Interview

August 28th, 2015

If your last job didn’t end very well and you were hustled out the door before you were ready, you probably experienced a range of emotions and concerns. If you’re like most job seekers, you probably wondered how you were going to handle your finances and how you would break the news to your family. You may also be facing another sticky challenge: how will you land your next job with this incident on your record? Answers to the first two questions will depend on your circumstances, but for the third concern, these tips can help.

Don’t mention the event in your application materials.

Leave all discussion of your firing out of your resume and cover letter. Don’t bring up the subject in any online or printed application unless you’ve been directly asked to do so, and if you are, answer using the fewest possible words. Try not to engage in this conversation at all until you can do so in person.

Don’t volunteer this information during your interview.

Again, there’s absolutely no need to offer this information or steer the conversation in this direction unless you’re directly asked. For example: “Why did you leave your last position?” or “Did you leave your last position voluntarily?” There’s nothing remotely dishonest about discussing other topics instead of this one. But if your interviewer does ask, be prepared.

Know the difference between a layoff and a firing.

If you were laid off, say so. Explain that your position was eliminated or your branch of the company was divested, and expect your interviewers to understand that this decision had nothing to do with your performance or behavior. Don’t use the word “fired” if you were dismissed though no action of your own.

Control the conversation.

If you really were fired as a result of performance or behavior, don’t testify against yourself. Keep the conversation short, positive, and under your control. As soon as possible, redirect the focus back to your talents and credentials. Notice how hard your interviewer pushes for the details, and read between the lines. For example, if you were fired due to low sales numbers, your interviewer may be concerned about your ability to perform sales-related tasks. Offer reassurance as needed. If she’s concerned about a potential behavior issue, briefly tell yours side of the story and explain what you learned from the incident. Make it clear that this poor behavior will never happen again.

Use the word “fit”.

If you were fired due to a complex personality mismatch, a he-said-she-said interpersonal conflict, or any other drama that can’t be understood out of context, don’t try to explain or tell the whole story. Just state that you and the job were not a “fit”. Then move on.

For more on how to handle this tricky conversation and bring it to a graceful end as soon as possible, reach out to the experienced staffing team at Merritt.


Preparing for an Administrative Interview

March 28th, 2014

Modern administrative professionals occupy a job category once staffed by secretaries, receptionists, personal assistants, travel coordinators, office managers and a wide range of other personnel who devoted their full-time energy to specific components of a role that’s now often held by just one person. In the digital age, “admins” usually wear all of these hats at once. That means their jobs are highly technology-dependent, and their multitasking capacities are often pushed to the limit.

When you schedule a job interview for an admin position, expect a host of questions about your experience with scheduling, budgeting, presentation support, travel planning, customer service, and spoken and written communication. Here are a few of the questions you’ll probably face.

1. Have you done this kind of work before?

Don’t just answer yes or no. Instead, take the floor and speak in an open ended way about how your previous positions and previous experience have prepared you for this role as you see it. Let your employer know what you’ve done in the past, but in addition, use the moment to demonstrate your ability to speak in a way that’s articulate and poised. Show that you know how to think on your feet.

2. If you’re needed during weekends, or if you’re asked to work late with little or no notice, can you do it?

Resist the urge to just say yes. Think carefully about the time you’re willing to invest in this position, and answer honestly. If you describe your true availability, you’ll save countless time and headaches down the road for both your employer and yourself.

3. What admin software platforms are you familiar with?

List and describe your familiarity with word processing and database management programs, like Word and Excel. Then describe your experience with document and photo editing software, presentation platforms and anything else you feel might benefit your employer. Don’t wait for him to ask for specifics—again, just speak freely about your proficiencies.

4. Can you describe an episode in which you 1.) faced a workplace conflict 2.) faced a leadership challenge 3.) faced failure 4.) faced an ethical dilemma on the job, 4.) faced an impossible task, etc, etc. What happened and how did you respond?

These are called “behavioral questions”, and they help employers determine if you’re a fit for the culture of this workplace. When you hear a question like this, pause before you answer. Then tell a story that’s true, short, and illustrates how you solve problems and bounce back from challenges.

For more on what to expect during your administrative interview and tips on how to prepare, contact the CT job search and employment experts at Merritt Staffing.

Identifying Performance Problems in the Workplace

March 14th, 2014

Before you can tackle an employee performance issue and address the necessary coaching, warning, training, or alternative action necessary to solve the problem, you’ll need to be able to answer a few important questions. And your managers will all need to approach these questions from a similar standpoint. First what exactly does excellent performance look like? How about adequate performance? And how would each of your managers define a “serious” performance problem? Here are a few ways to get a handle on performance related obstacles to productivity.

1. Benchmarks should be clear, publically available and universally understood.

During a new employee’s first annual performance review, both parties should agree on the exact definition of success within this role. If possible, these benchmarks should be measurable. Sales quotas, units processed per hour, new clients gained, new customers served daily, accounts closed or new accounts opened annually, and revenue generation can all be included in the factors that determine performance.

2. Intangibles can also be considered, but with caution.

An excellent seller may be difficult to get along with in the workplace, which means higher stress and lower productivity for everyone, despite her strong closures. The reverse is also true–sometimes low sellers are well liked and have a motivational effect on everyone around them. But the question for you is clear: How much do these intangibles really matter? Can you afford to keep a low seller on board because of her strong organizational skills? Can you afford to keep a high seller on the team despite his tendency to serve as a general drain on the company? Before you criticize an employee or threaten termination for performance-related reasons, take these issues into account.

3. Fairness is everything.

Performance assessment should always be numbers-driven, and never bias-driven. Some employees and managers simply get along better than others, but personal feelings should never corrupt an assessment of performance. If they do, excellent assets with great value to the company may be discouraged and driven away. And weaker producers will be kept on board long after they should have been coached toward success or shown to the door. If you sense your assessments could be more balanced and unbiased, you’re probably right.

4. Factor growth into any assessment of employee value.

Which would you rather have on your team: a high performer who never grows and never improves? Or a weaker employee who underwhelmed you during her first year but has made vast, ongoing gains since then? Growth and value are very different metrics, and both should play a role in any calculation of employee merit.

Reach out to the CT staffing and business management experts at Merritt for more on how to approach the review process and provide meaningful feedback for your teams.

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