What to say when you've been fired? This week, that uncomfortable topic is covered by Terri Carpenter, a longtime jobs expert with the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency and its 11 OneStop Career Centers.
To see more of her "Ask the Experts" advice or to ask your own questions, go to: www.sacbee.com/personalfinanceblog. That's where you can also get free advice from our other local experts on taxes, investing, personal finances and wills/trusts.
I worked for (a discount alcoholic beverage company) 11 years ago. Mistakenly, I sold alcohol to underage customers without checking ID. (I thought they were over 21.) The company let me go immediately. Do I have to list this on an application?
On a job application, you do not need to go into detail of why your employment ended. Instead of listing the position as "fired," you should list it as "terminated" or "job ended."
However, if it specifically asks whether you were fired, you need to answer "Yes." Lying on a job application is grounds for dismissal.
Most importantly, during a job interview, you need to be able to explain why your employment was terminated. You can count on every employer asking: "Why did you leave your last job?"
When talking with a potential employer, you should be honest and state the facts. Tell the employer that you learned a lesson and explain how you benefited from the experience. Take the negative and turn it into a positive.
A suggested response could be: "For years, I was a valued, hardworking employee who always followed company policy and procedures. One day I made an error in judgment that cost me my job. I sold alcohol to an underage customer without checking ID. I learned a very valuable lesson: No matter what, I always follow my employer's rules and regulations."
Be sure to be confident in your response. Keep it brief; keep it honest; keep it moving.
Take some time to prepare answers to questions so you know exactly how you will respond. Practice your answers so you can speak confidently and without hesitation. The more you say it, the less painful it will be.
Again, don't lie. Most companies check references and background information; if you lie, you likely will get caught.
Do not contradict yourself. Tell the truth, regardless of how many people interview you. They will compare notes afterwards, and you don't want to have told one person one thing and someone else a different version.
Do not insult your former boss or the company. No employer wants to wonder whether you would talk about him/her the same way. Also, don't be angry. Feeling angry after being terminated is normal, but you need to leave that anger at home.
Note: Job seekers, especially those who may be losing their unemployment benefits as of Dec. 29, are encouraged to contact one of SETA's OneStop Career Centers for free help with résumés, interview skills and training workshops. Call (916) 263-3800 or go to www.servicelocator.org.
Compiled by Claudia Buck