No one’s employment history is flawless. At some point, we all face what Black Enterprise writer Kandia Johnson calls “mistakes or blips” — i.e. terminations, layoffs, or sudden resignations. While these things can make it more difficult to find a new job, they don’t have to be deal-breakers.
In an insightful post titled “How to Get Hired … Even With a Few Employment Blemishes,” Johnson offers four great tips for explaining hiccups to potential employers. The advice comes via Nicole K. Webb, head of the career-coaching business NK Webb Group LLC. Webb started her company at 28, after she’d left a stressful job with a great salary for a better opportunity, so she clearly knows a thing or two about navigating the treacherous waters of jobseeking.
Webb’s first piece of advice is to determine your standing with the company you’ve just left. If you were fired, have you been “blacklisted?” If not, and you’re still eligible for future employment there, say so your next interview that “you were separated from a particular position,” as Webb writes, “but are welcome to rejoin the organization.” If you’ve been forever marked foul, it’s still possible to include the company on your resume. Simply use the contact information for the HR department and tell your new potential employer they don’t have permission to contact your old bosses. HR will serve as a “neutral reference” and verify the basic facts (dates, salary, etc.) of your employment.
Next up, Webb recommends keeping explanations simply and professional. When you write your resume or job application, don’t say, “I was fired.” Instead, opt for something like this: “My previous employer chose to exercise their right to end my employment with their organization.” While offering to supply additional information is OK, avoid over-explaining, since your words might be misconstrued.
While you don’t want to supply too much info about, say, getting fired, the incident may come up, and that requires you to “take ownership of your termination” — Webb’s third tip. Here, the key is to not point figures, but rather own up to your shortcomings and how they may have contributed to your dismissal. “It lets potential employers know that you’re self aware,” Webb says. “It shows that you’ve learned a lesson and are willing to improve going forward.”
On a similar note, Webb’s fourth and final snippet of wisdom is to avoid badmouthing your former employer. No one wants to hire a potential “problem employee,” as she writes, so when you explain that blemish, focus on the positive and keep it brief. “Speaking negatively about a former employer,” Webb writes, “only shows your lack of trustworthiness and loyalty.”