Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Interviewing a Candidate That was Fired

When someone gets fired from their job it’s usually an ego-crushing situation. Perhaps they knew it was coming or they were completely blindsided- either way, it’s difficult to recover. However, it’s not like employees that were fired are never going to work again. Eventually, these job seekers will pick themselves up out of their rut and get back on the job search bandwagon. What does that mean for you? Well, that means that as a hiring manager or employer you are probably going to be interviewing at least a handful of job seekers that were fired from their previous position. Should you write them off completely just because their previous job didn’t work out quite so well?

Well ultimately that choice is yours, but simply writing off candidates because they were fired may not be the best idea. Instead, you should take full advantage of the interview process and learn as much as you can about this candidate. If they seem like they are fully qualified to take on this open position you have, then probe deeper into their past position to see if they are worth your time and effort. Here are some of the things you should look for, and some of the questions you should ask, when interviewing a candidate that was fired.

Keep an Open Mind
A lot of hiring managers and employers will say straight out that they do not want to hire people that were previously fired from their last position. They assume they did something wrong or messed up in some way in order to get fired. However, the lines usually aren’t quite as clear as that. Perhaps their past company was not a great company culture fit for them and they weren’t able to fully spread their wings in their position. Company culture is something we discuss a lot here at Spark Hire so you should certainly understand how important it is to find a great fit. After all, you can always teach new skills, but a good company culture fit is something that generally cannot be taught. That is why you need to ask questions and probe deeper into this candidate’s past work experience. This leads us to our next tip:

Ask the Right Questions
You can’t just make assumptions about job seekers without asking them some probing questions. You can, of course, make presumptions on personality and fit through a video interview or video resume, but that’s different. You cannot simply assume that just because a candidate was fired that they are a terrible employee. As mentioned above there may have been a ton of factors weighing in on this person’s firing. That is why the staple question, “Tell me why you left, or are leaving, your current position?” is such an important one to ask. With the answer to this simple question you can learn right away if this candidate left their previous position of their own accord, if they were laid-off or if they were fired. If they are smart, this candidate will tell you the truth and will avoid lying to you about their past work experience.

Once you receive your answer, and if that answer was “I was fired or let go” then you need to ask some more questions. Ask them what happened and why they were let go from their previous job. The way they answer this question should be a deciding factor for you as hiring manager. A savvy candidate will know that they should not speak negatively of their past employers- even if they were fired. Therefore, any candidate that answers with, “Well, it really was a terrible company to work for and my boss and I just really didn’t mesh” should be disqualified immediately. If this candidate is willing to speak ill of their past employer, why wouldn’t they do it to you too? Instead, you want a candidate that is willing to acknowledge their mistakes and avoid placing the blame on others.

Look For Positivity and Growth
The savvy candidate will answer your question as honestly as possible without pointing the finger of blame in the other direction. Perhaps they will tell you that it wasn’t a great culture fit. Perhaps the job was presented to them completely different than how it really was. Maybe they made a big mistake on a client and had to pay the price. Whatever their answer, you want to be looking for signs that this candidate can take responsibility for their actions. On top of that, you want to know what this candidate has done in order to improve themselves since. What did they learn from the situation and what actions are they taking to rectify themselves in the process? A candidate that acknowledges this- without you having to ask them specifically- is on the right track and may be a great employee after all.

The hiring process is already difficult enough without having to deal with candidates that were fired. However, these candidates shouldn’t be looked over just because their past job did not fully work out. Would you expect job seekers to dismiss your company if one of your past employees quit? Certainly not. So before you throw that candidate’s resume into the garbage, take some time to feel them out and probe deeper if they are truly qualified for the position.

Would you pass up a qualified candidate simply because they were fired in the past? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by WarmSleepy

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter