There are a few situations more painful for a manager than letting someone go. Here’s how to answer this interview question if asked.

Tough Interview Questions: Tell Me About a Time You Let Go of a Team Member

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This is a question for managers-- tell me about a time you had to let go of a team member. You know, it's always a painful situation to fire someone, because that's really what they're asking about. And they want to see how mechanically you went about doing it. So, you start off by saying, "Look, letting someone go should never be a surprise; you should always give them an opportunity to recover, to improve, to let them know what they need to do to get better. So in one person's case, I started off in a process, I said, 'Look, I'm not happy with your performance. This is what I need to start seeing over the next 90 days in order to be satisfied with your work.' So we gave them that goal. Then after 90 days, we did a review. I still wasn't satisfied. They hadn't hit the benchmarks we had set jointly. Thus, I gave them 90 more days. And at the end of the 90, they still hadn't hit it. So now we're at a half a year in. And then I put them on a 30 day performance improvement plan, by which point, unless I had seen radical change, radical improvement, at the end of that period, we were going to let them go. Thus, at the end of that period of time, a total of seven months, we've given them an adequate amount of time to improve."

Now, your circumstances may be after 90 days, and then the performance improvement plan. But the idea is you don't just walk in one day and say "come in my office. You're fired," because your fir,m will be exposed to legal issues. It tends not to be part of organizational structure. And at the time you talk about the termination, you know, you when you brought them into your into your office to talk, you can say things like, "and they knew what was coming, because we gave them every chance. I personally tried to help them. And they just couldn't get the results they had agreed to. So I never try and make it a surprise, I want to make sure that they understand what they have to achieve, that they agree that they believe it's reasonable and at the end of a period of time, we either extend it or we put them on a performance improvement plan at the end of which they're let go."

And thus, on the day that the PIP (performance improvement plan) hasn't been met, I bring them into my office. It's not a surprise to them. It's painful. They're not happy, I'm not happy. But it's the right thing to do because carrying a laggard in an organization can be detrimental to the performance of other people. Maintaining standards is important. And giving the chance is also important. I tried to do both. And this is how I've done in the past."

So I hope you find this helpful. I'm Jeff Altman. That's how we would have you answer that interview question. There's more on my website, Go to the site and go exploring. There's just a lot there to help you.

If you're interested in one on one coaching, you can schedule time for a free discovery call or schedule time for coaching. I'd love to help you. And, I'll also mention, if this isn't the right time to do it, just put my web address in your phone. Again,, and my name, Jeff Altman. This way you can get in touch with me at a later date.

At the site. You can also find out about my books and guides and my courses that can help you with your search. Again, I've got a lot of stuff available. And also connect with me on LinkedIn at

Have a terrific day and be great


Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2200 episodes.

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