Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Reader’s Question: how to handle a dismissal

A reader wrote in with the following question:
After working as a bank teller for 7 years, I was fired - so I was told -
because several customers complained about the quality of my service. There
were no complaints about my technical competence, and I never missed a
single day due to sickness. My question is, how do I work around this during
my job search?
I worked there too long to leave my last employer off my
resume, but I can’t think of a way to minimize the impact when asked why I
was fired. Customer service issues seem to be an employability kiss of
death.

You’re right. Seven years is too long at one job to leave it off your resume.

On the positive side, let’s look at what you’ve got going for yourself. You’re a dependable worker, someone who’s able to master technical aspects and procedures well enough to make me think your drawer always balanced to the penny.

If we were meeting in person, I’d ask a few questions. Like, did you enjoy your job? How was the “fit” from your angle? (I wonder about this because of the length of time you spent there.) What skills did you master? What positives qualities and skills can you see offering your next employer?

Then, I would move on to questions more related to the customers’ complaints. Did you have any inkling that some customers were not happy with your responses? If so, what was behind your responses on those days—ie. what was your life context? Problems at home, leading to a bad day in general? Or, were you just getting sick and tired of customers? More specifically, do you really want a position where you have to deal with the public that much?

What I’m getting at here is the bottom line—looking at who you are and where your gifts lie.

With regard to your more specific question—what to do when the question of firing comes up—I would suggest wording it in a positive way. Emphasize your gifts and be able to talk about what you learned from the experience and what you’ve done to address the issue. Including specific, behavioral changes or stories to that effect work best.

And, see if you can get a few references, even co-workers who could speak positively about the work you did.

To sum up a rather lengthy response—you’ve got some great things going for you. Get back to working from your gifts and strengths and see if you can view this as a bump in the road rather than total derailment.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 09/06 at 08:49 AM
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