"I WAS NOT GIVEN A REASON"
BY JEANINE "J.T." O'DONNELL AND DALE DAUTEN
Dear J.T. & Dale: When I was terminated from my job, I was not given a reason other than it was a "corporate decision." I was never asked to give my side of the story. I want to be honest during my interviews and also on employment applications. How would you recommend that I handle this? -- Mary
J.T.: You have the right to contact your former employer and ask how they will deal with reference calls on you. It's important that you find out exactly what they plan to say. I'd even test it by having someone you know call in and ask for a reference.
DALE: Yes, worth doing, but if the company won't give you a reason, they aren't likely to tell callers anything beyond dates of employment. The real test will come when callers ask your old company this little Zippo of a question: "Is she eligible for re-hire?" I bet they'll respond, "We don't give out such information." That's good, except your past employment will be shrouded in mystery, and hiring managers hate mysteries.
J.T.: So it will be up to you to deal with the question in interviews. Be honest and unemotional. Simply say, "The company I worked for made a corporate decision to eliminate my job." If asked if you know why, the truth couldn't be any simpler, "I asked, but they wouldn't provide me with any details."
DALE: There's that mystery again. You might try calling former co-workers to see what you can learn. If there was something wrong with your performance, you need to learn and grow from it. If not, you'll probably hear gossip about business problems. If so, then you can transfer the mystery onto your old company, where it belongs, saying, "They got secretive -- they're having corporate problems." Then move the interview conversation along to what you learned or accomplished while there.
J.T.: Keep focused on the fact that you now can look for a new, exciting opportunity. No need to waste any negative energy on your old company -- don't give them the satisfaction!
DALE: If you still find yourself going into the interview worrying -- and it's hard not to obsess about what you do NOT want to talk about -- that anxiety will color the entire conversation. So, headed for the interview, if worries sneak into your consciousness, take immediate action to flush them out: Start recalling your favorite boss, best co-worker and biggest successes. That way, you walk into the interview smiling and confident. I've learned to do something comparable with speeches and with difficult meetings, and it's magic. I hope everyone who reads this will try it, and when you do, let us know what transpired so we can pass along your story.
Dear J.T. and Dale: I am attaching a copy of my resume. I have fully and honestly listed all employment, all successes and all the technical alphabet soup that applies to my work, education and training. I send out a lot of resumes, and I follow up, but I haven't been getting results. -- Sidelined
J.T.: First, your resume does need some work. Stylistically, it's not written in a format that showcases your strengths. As it's designed right now, it reads as long paragraphs that will turn off hiring managers because they can't tell if you have the experience they need without taking a lot of time.
DALE: It's tempting to think, "Well, I've given them all the information they could want; all they have to do is pick out what they need." No. You have failed the first test that prospective managers have given you, the test of, "Who can figure out what I want and give it to me without my having to ask?" They don't think this consciously, of course, but never forget that they're hiring because they're busy and overworked. A windy resume -- the over-application -- frustrates them and they push it aside; meanwhile, a concise resume, highlighting just what they need to know, sends the nonverbal message that you're someone who will give them the help they need.
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Jeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell.com. Dale Dauten's latest book is "(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success" (John Wiley & Sons). Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
(c) 2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.