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GloPro's avatar

How do I answer this interview question?

Asked by GloPro (8210 points ) March 4th, 2014 from iPhone

You might remember I was fired from my last job. Basically I told my boss to go to hell. Although the following details would never come up in an interview, allow me to give you the background:

I found a lump in my right breast on a Saturday. First thing Monday morning I called my doctor. They had a cancellation that day and could see me at noon, or I would have to wait 3 weeks. Of course I chose that day and I called my boss (owner) and asked her to keep my business private, but I was calling in.
My boss was not supportive. She told me I was neglecting my job (I already had 82 hours on the clock in a commission only role and I ranked #3 out of 8 in sales numbers). She told me that in order to call in sick I actually needed to be sick, otherwise I needed to plan doctor appointments on my own time. I told her I was scared and my health was most important to me, and I was not coming to work.
So I had a mammogram and an ultrasound that day, confirming a solid mass and a liquid cyst. I was scheduled for a biopsy the following Monday.
Long story shorter, I got someone to cover my shift. My boss came in as I was writing it in and crossed my name off of the previous Monday, writing “personal day” on it and the upcoming Monday. She was being openly hostile to me, for reasons I don’t understand.
So I went and had a biopsy. GOOD NEWS it was benign. Yay!
So the following week my boss called a staff meeting, where about 15 people were in attendance. In the meeting she called me out, saying to the whole staff that we “cannot just come and go as we please” and “if you call in sick you must be sick.” Then she looks at me, again in front of everyone, and goes “Is that alright with you, GloPro?”
Beyond unprofessional and immature, in my opinion. I kept my mouth shut the entire meeting and when it was over went to talk to the Director of Operations about how angry and embarrassed I was that the boas shared my business with everyone, inaccurately, and scolded me under false accusations. My boss butts in, and I gave her a piece of my mind. Then I lost my job.

Sorry for the long story. But my question is, when being interviewed, how do I answer as to why I have no job, and why I left my previous one?

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18 Answers

filmfann's avatar

First off, let me say how glad I am the test results were good.
Secondly, your boss is an idiot, and you should be glad to be rid of him/her.
On your interview question, you should be open with them, and tell them you had a cancer scare, and your former boss didn’t like your having doctor appointments on short notice. You may find your interviewer very understanding and sympathetic.
Lastly, you might contact your former employers HR department, and make sure they understand the issues. This could be very important when they check your references.
I know you want to keep this stuff private, but it will help you greatly if you allowed people to know. They will empathize, and you will have an ally.

marinelife's avatar

Say that you wanted a change in work environment.

zenvelo's avatar

I second @filmfann‘s approach. I might even adapt @marinelife‘s by saying “I needed a change in work environment.”

Cruiser's avatar

I would simply state that you had private health emergency you needed to attend to. You covered all your shift requirements and your boss became verbally aggressive over this personal matter and when you expressed to your DoO your objections to her unprofessional actions, you were dismissed by your former boss.

I am glad to hear your health is healthy….that had to be scary as hell!

cazzie's avatar

Where I come from, you were dismissed under scurrilous circumstances and you would have a right to take it to labour court. You DID need to go to the doctor and you needed immediate medical attention. Not all illnesses are flu-like symptoms.

Did you manage to get a reference? Did you take the case any further? You don’t need to justify why you left. But if they press it, you could tell them what you told us and any workplace worth their salt will empathise, or you can just say it was a mutual decision after a disagreement as to what qualified as a needed medical emergency.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

To sum up all that’s been said that I agree with:

First, I’m glad to hear that it was benign and that you are healthy.

Next, its a damn shame to have to work for people that are so unfeeling and so tied to the bottom line of the job.

I would answer the question as @Cruiser suggested. I couldn’t put it any better .

CWOTUS's avatar

In line with the generally excellent responses above – and I share the consensus that it’s nice to hear the good news about your health – I think that I might leave out some detail and add some.

The detail that I would leave out is “cancer scare” – even if you amend that to say “it’s not an issue, because I don’t have cancer”. Someone is going to take the mistaken impression that you’re a cancer risk. Especially in a small company that you might apply to, that could influence someone’s decision to not hire you because of what you might do to their health insurance rates. So I would not use “the C word”. You could say “potentially serious health concern” and leave it at that; no sensible interviewer would say another word on the topic.

The detail that I would add, since the facts are going to come out anyway when the potential new employer contacts the prior employer for verification, is “I lost my temper in the heat of the discussion about my ‘unwarranted’ time off and said something that I shouldn’t have.” To this I would quickly add, “And I’ve learned a valuable lesson in how I need to communicate in stressful situations!” Presumably your prior employer and others will validate that you aren’t a normally angry or intemperate person, and you will be forgiven in advance by the prospective new employer – as you should have been forgiven by a more sensible prior one. (That last will be implied; you shouldn’t have to say it aloud.) The person who gets to speak first on this issue – and who seems to be honest about it – is the person most likely to be believed.

nebule's avatar

as Cruiser said – because he’s awesome and brilliant and that’s a darn good answer right there

GloPro's avatar

@CWOTUS It’s my understanding that a former employer can verify employment, salary and rehire status. Anything beyond that is against the law. Because my company was small, the DoO is also HR. She told me she would write me a reference letter and I could use her private # on applications.

Lurve to everyone. This one has had me stressed out.

Brian1946's avatar

Please let us know how your next interview and reemployment prospects go.

Brian, assistant to jca, the Update Lady.

CWOTUS's avatar

@GloPro I think that your understanding is flawed. Generally, for an employer or its HR department to furnish information beyond the things that you mentioned is “against policy” but not against the law. Companies and individuals can be sued for misleading, libelous or vindictive information – which makes companies leery of giving more detail than they need to.

In your case, I expect that the “not eligible for rehire” would raise a red flag to your prospective employer, and it would be better for you to bring it up and explain it before they find out about it during a reference / employment check. That’s why I suggest that you bring it up, explain it, and put it behind you during the interview. Nail it shut, in other words.

Just because HR departments have policies that they’re supposed to follow doesn’t mean that there aren’t slips, back channels and rumor mills, too – or that policies aren’t deliberately broken from time to time.

CunningFox's avatar

Wow, your boss is sounds like such an idiot! This advice is not from experience (I’m a 16 year old girl who’s never had a job in her life), so you don’t have to take it if you don’t want to.
But I would say something like, I was unsatisfied with the work environment and the un-professionalism of my previous employer. If they want further info, then tell them you had a genuine medical issue and that it wasn’t handled properly by your boss, so you got fed up and decided to look for employment elsewhere.
OR, if you’re not comfortable giving that information there’s an easier explanation. I have filled out work applications for my dad before, and when it asks ‘Reason For Leaving Previous Employment’, I put “Wanted a change in environment”. It’s a legit excuse, without having to explain yourself.
Hope that helped a little bit and glad the cyst was benign.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It is always amazing that so many insensitive jackasses wind up in middle management supervisory positions. It is inevitably the resting place for those with lots of ambition and no talent, and it is one of the great mysteries to me that people without empathy and clearly deficient in social skills are permitted to manage others. I think CWOTUS is correct. Conflict with a supervisor is such a common complaint that it shouldn’t raise eyebrows, unless of course the person interviewing you is cut from the same cloth as your ex supe—in which case, you’d probably be better off elsewhere. It’s probably a bad idea to begin the interview by bad-mouthing your old supe, but if pressed, explain the details. The reaction should tell you whether or not THEY are worthy of you. Frankly, I think you’re better off having left the dummy now torturing your former co-workers, and I’ll bet you’re gonna do just fine. Let us know how it goes (please)

GloPro's avatar

For anyone keeping up, I got accepted for an internship at the local hospital, which has an impressive trauma unit. Unpaid, but definitely in the right direction!

Yetanotheruser's avatar

Pizzas!
^That’s how my android auto-corrected “Huzzah!”

GloPro's avatar

Haha, nice

GloPro's avatar

Again for anyone paying attention… My internship is ending and I was offered a paid position. I’m on the payroll and working towards my second Bachelor’s degree.

Pizzas!

Yetanotheruser's avatar

Huzzah fo pizzas!!

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