January 28, 2003
Had a few interviews recently. Two of them were with recruiters to forward on to their clients, one was with one of those clients. In every instance I was asked at some point about why I left my last job. I give my usual answer: I was dissatisfied with the variation in the workload (from 55-hour weeks to days with only 30 minutes of work) and I had a conflict with a new manager they brought on.
Both these things are true. But the person interviewing me always ends up asking me point-blank: Was I fired?
Now, I realize that if they call my former employer, they'll only verify employment dates for fear of getting sued. I could tell them I quit to be a freelancer. I could tell them I was laid off. But I always answer "yes, I was fired."
Part of me isn't comfortable with lying during the interview, for ethical reasons -- I like to think of myself as an honest person, regardless of any other flaws I might have -- but ethics don't put food on the table. I also know that if I lied about it, it'd come back to me later when I started talking about the old job, I'd get bitten in the ass by it.
But I always feel like I've blown the interview when that happens. Even though I wasn't entirely in the wrong myself. (I'd say it was a 50-50 thing. I didn't try to bend very much, but neither did she.) With the second recruiter I found a way to mention that I'd found a way to work with one of the project managers after a while by reaching a compromise between his management style and my work style. It worked so well I even did a little work for him over the summer.
So, maybe I'll bring that up when a future interviewer asks about my skills -- it wasn't much of a negotiation but it at least shows I'm willing to meet in the middle if the other person's being reasonable. Then when I answer the question of Why I Left truthfully it may not seem as bad.
In the meantime I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I have a total of three opportunities up in the air at the moment (two for recruiter #1, one of which I interviewed for, and one through recruiter #2 that I have to wait to see if they get a budget for) and if I'm lucky one of them will pan out.
Then I can get back to not living from paycheck to paycheck.
Update: Just got an e-mail from recruiter #1 about the interview. They decided they wanted someone with both design and programming experience, and my design work isn't exactly extensive. So, that one's out of play. D'oh.
Update #2: More interview fun. See Friday's entry for more info.