Dear J.T. & Dale: I was fired from my job for allegedly saying that I refused a transfer to a different store. I became very upset about the unwanted transfer, but I never refused to go. What do I say when employers ask about my last job? - Allen
J.T.: You’ll have to be honest and say you were let go because you were upset about a transfer you didn’t want.
DALE: And there you’ll be, telling your story and feeling good about how honest and candid you are, and meanwhile the hiring manager is hearing an alarm go off and a voice cry: “WARNING: TROUBLE AHEAD! PROBLEM EMPLOYEE! ABORT INTERVIEW!”
J.T.: No, before that alarm goes off, you add: “I learned a valuable lesson from that experience. I shouldn’t have been upset when they proposed the transfer. Instead, I should have found a way to share my desire not to be transferred in a calm and positive way. I realize now that there’s a better way to deal with these issues.” That way, they’ll hear that you have grown from the experience and are capable of learning from your mistakes.
DALE: Carry a stopwatch, Allen, because I want to know how fast they end your interview. Unless, that is, you are in a position to be very choosy about employers and can afford to wait for one that has a policy to never transfer employees without their consent.
You could try screening for such employers by saying something like, “I want to find a place that respects employees and would include them in decisions like transfers.” Even in that situation, I see no reason to confess that you had a meltdown or tantrum or whatever it was. Just say that you opposed a transfer.
Perhaps you even can find a positive side of it, saying that you were part of a team you were really committed to, or that the other store was a place where you couldn’t do great work.
J.T.: Well, Allen, I have more faith in hiring managers than Dale, but I agree that there are many versions of any event. One is how much you learned from what happened. If you can devise multiple versions of events, test them against this goal: to make a hiring manager respect you and want you on the team.
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