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Have You Ever Fired Someone? | No BS Job Search Advice Radio

EP 789   I not only answered the question but discuss how to flip it so that you learn something from them


The question is, "Have you ever fired someone?"

There are lots of layers as to how to answer this question , depending upon who the audience is. I want to address one thing 1st before I tell you how to answer this question.

There is a signal that they are sending by asking the question that will bear investigation later on. I will go into some detail later because the signal is rarely the most important part of the question. So after I explained how to answer, I know there will be a temptation to cut off but hang in there.

Depending upon the organization, the way I would answer the question may vary. For example, if this was a capital Wall Street firm with the reputation of being tough, aggressive… I'm caricaturing here but you seen enough movies to know what I'm talking about. You might simply say, "Yeah. I fired people before. Performance is always the variable. I have a good fortune of not having to deal with harassment issues. They've occurred after we've done a remediation process (notice where I'm going with this. All my eyes are dotted and tees are crossed) where we tried to get the performance of the standards. We couldn't. They didn't perform at a high enough level.

You do it in a very blunt, very direct manner.

Different types of firms – – smaller firms, firms with a caring culture – – I will use a nonprofit is an example here. These types of firms require a different answer. You might answer, "Yes. I have had the misfortune of having to fire someone. Frankly, it was a very hard thing to do. Yes, we went through the process of remediation, but it was the admission that we, as an organization, and I as a manager, failed this person. We fail to deliver an environment where they could excel." You can do your version of this but that is a theme to work with.

Notice the difference between the 1st answer where I offered a very firm directing tough answer and the 2nd 1 which was much more humane. Thus, you have to know the culture that you are interviewing with in order to know which one is the right one to use. After all, the tough person will probably not work well in the non-profit. The touchy-feely person is probably not going to work well in the hedge fund environment, right?

Here is the signal. The signal that they are sending to you is that they have some problems. They are curious as to whether you can step into an awkward situation and solve it for them. Do you have that kind of experience?

So when you finish answering the question, I want you to flip it by asking, "I'm curious. Is there an issue that I should know I will be stepping into." Ask this question as soon as you finish answering theirs. Notice that this is a question for someone in a leadership role and this is their opportunity to be forthcoming with you about what is going on or has gone on.

This may give them the opportunity to talk about your predecessor who couldn't pull the trigger and let go of someone they needed to let go of and thus decided to leave. Or it may open them up to talking about a problem that they have that you will need to address. It is their opportunity to be more forthcoming with you and to share with you what you are stepping into. It signals a great opportunity for you to explore.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life coaching, as well as executive job search coaching and business life coaching. He is the host of “Job Search Radio” and “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” both available through iTunes and Stitcher.

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