Dear Matt: I am having hard time getting a job. I was fired from a job over ten years ago. I've worked since then and have proven to be a good worker. When I fill out an application and they ask if I have ever been terminated, how do I respond? I always answer honestly and tell the truth, but I haven't been getting interviews. If given the chance to explain I know they will understand my reason. What should I do?

Matt: This is a tough dilemma to be in, but it is certainly not the end all to your job search woes. You could leave the question blank - they will most certainly ask about that in the interview - but that's what you want, a chance to explain in person. When the interviewer asks why you left the question blank, you could respond that since it was 10 years ago and not relevant to your current skills and work performance you thought that it would be better to answer the question during the interview, says Twin Cities HR guru and consultant Arlene Vernon (www.arlenevernon.com).

Since applications appear to be the problem, you may also consider including a resume with the application - that gives you more control over the information shared. You could also attach copies of references from former employers with the application.

"This would show that despite one involuntary exit there are other supervisors who were pleased with your job performance," says Vernon. "You could also submit a cover letter with your application and resume that sells your strengths and abilities beyond the `just the facts' approach of an application."

Joan Runnheim Olson, a certified career coach and owner of Pathways Career Success Strategies, says writing "will explain at interview" is also an option.

"Honesty is important," says Runnheim Olson.

Both Runnheim Olson and Vernon wondered - are there other reasons that are holding you back from getting an interview? Is something else amiss on the application? Try contacting the people screening the applications and asking for some feedback on why they passed you by. They may have an idea of how you could better present your overall experience, emphasize your successes and write your application in a way that the old termination is irrelevant to the hiring manager reviewing the application.


Matt Krumrie has written and specialized in career advice for 10 years. He lives and works in the Twin Cities. Matt answers readers' questions every week; e-mail him at askmatt@startribune.com.