Admit it, when you hear the word "recruiter" you cringe a little. Every year recruiters place thousands of NPs and PAs in great jobs, but those aren't the stories that you hear. Like the plane that didn't crash successful job placements aren't likely to make the news. Instead your colleagues will regale you with tales of recruiting nightmares. I was a recruiter for years (and did a mighty fine job!) but I won't deny there are some unscrupulous folks conducting some questionable business practices out there. As a former recruiter I am going to let you in on a few signs your recruiter might not be acting in your best interests.
A reputable recruiter should have a basic understanding of the terminology of your profession. Decent recruiters should be fluent in NP/PA speak and use words like NPI, credentialing and scope of practice comfortably in conversations. If they don't, it may be a sign that recruiting advanced practice clinicians is a sideline business. To avoid inappropriate job placements I recommend working with agencies that have a division devoted to NPs and PAs.
And speaking of conversations, it's not unreasonable to expect to personally speak with any recruiter who wishes to represent you. A recruiter who is willing to submit your resume to an employer without first speaking to you is a recruiter you want to avoid. Submitting unscreened applicants for jobs without first ensuring they match the requirements is more than just an annoyance. There are recruiters who use what I call the "spaghetti testing" approach. In other words they keep throwing resumes at employers and hope that eventually one sticks. Inappropriate applications will come back to haunt you and spoil your chances down the road when later you want to apply for a job you actually want. When you accumulate previous applications that are floating around in the system it creates the impression that you have applied for anything and everything that comes along.
Reputable recruiters should also be able to clearly outline the job placement process to you. Each step should be clear, you should know what to expect from them and what they expect from you.
The process should look something like this:
- You interview first with the recruiter at the staffing agency to determine if you match the position. At that time pay, hours and other info is provided to you.
- If you meet the requirement and are still interested in the terms - and with your permission - then the agency will present you to the client. (Note: At this stage a recruiter may request to check your references.)
- If the presentation goes well the next step is to set you up with an interview with the client. After interviewing the recruiter should provide you with feedback from the employer.
- If an offer is made the recruiter will help you negotiate and close the deal.
- At all phases good recruiters will advise and guide you through the process.
If you aren't receiving this level of service you might want to find a new recruiter.
Let's review a few basic details about recruiting agencies and what using a recruiter means to your job search.
Recruiters are hired and paid for by the employer. The majority are hired on a contingency basis and are compensated only after they find a candidate and that candidate is hired by the employer. As a job seeker, you benefit from this arrangement because you are not required to pay anything for the services you receive from the recruiter. The employer benefits because the recruiter is motivated to find the right candidate in order to be paid. I mention this because it is important for you to understand that even though a recruiter's goal is to put you into a position you should not expect the recruiter to do an individualized job search just for you. Unless of course you want to pay the fee!
Recruiters have full and direct access to H.R. If you have been applying for jobs you have no doubt experienced the frustration of trying to reach an actual live person. Applications are submitted electronically and job seekers are left wondering who, if anyone, on the other end actually receives their resume. This isn't a problem when you apply via a recruiter. Recruiters have frequent contact with their clients so when a recruiter presents candidates to an employer feedback is swift. This personal "handling" of an application by an outside recruiter is a huge advantage to you. Your application will essentially be chaperoned through the entire process and personally delivered to the hiring manager. This service is especially beneficial if you have unusual circumstances such as employment gaps, frequent job changes or non-traditional roles that can make you look less than desirable on paper. The recruiter has the opportunity to provide explanations directly to the employer on your behalf.
Recruiters don't just find names for an employer, they provide a valuable service. Recruiting fees can run into the thousands and so the expectation of the recruiter is that he or she will assume the responsibility of running job ads and actively sourcing candidates. The employer will see resumes from only the most viable candidates for the position. Reputable recruiters do not wish to expend valuable time and energy on applicants that do not meet the requirement from the employer. As a job seeker this means you must view your interactions with a recruiter in the same professional manner you would if you were interacting directly with the employer. If you don't impress the recruiter your application will go no further.
To protect yourself, you should be dealing only with well-established and reputable firms. Next time we'll talk about the dark side of recruiting.
This week let's have a look at what is currently going on in the NP job market. Whether you are graduating this spring or looking for a new job there are few things happening that could have an impact your job search.
My sources in the industry are telling me that while jobs are plentiful, so are the number of applicants for each job. I am assured that for every open position there is no shortage of qualified candidates. This is a change, because for the past couple of years we have been in a job seekers market and jobs have been relatively easy to find and easy to obtain. This year the pendulum appears to be swinging back towards the favor of the employer.
The reasons for the shift in the ratio of jobs to applicants isn't clear. Markets have always been cyclical so this might be nothing more than the usual fluctuations we see over time. Regulatory changes to nurse practitioner practice has occurred in many states but it may be a little too early to determine whether or not that is having an impact on the market. Certainly there has been some migration of NPs from restrictive practice states to those states that offer full practice authority but it probably only accounts for a small percentage and it really only affect a few select geographic areas. I have heard some theories that as a backlash to NPs obtaining full practice authority some organizations have begun hiring more PAs but at this point I am unable to verify if this is actually occurring. At any rate, in order to skew the NP market to this extent both of these trends would have to be happening at a fairly high rate.
The explanation is likely multifactorial. It could be that supply is just exceeding demand due to the increased numbers of NP programs and the numbers of new NPs that are entering the workforce. The economy continues to play a role. The recession may have officially ended but the recovery remains sluggish. This means that more NPs delay retirement and elect to stay in the job market. The need to make better money might also be driving many NPs to seek jobs with better pay and/or more hours.
Whatever the reason, if you are looking for a new job you should acknowledge that the market is competitive and plan your strategy accordingly. If you expect to stand out from the crowd of applicants you must prove to the employer YOU have what they want. This means each time you submit your resume it must be tailored to the position you are seeking. Your resume must be focused or you will be lost in the shuffle.
Okay new grads, let’s talk about references. If you are graduating soon and looking for
your first job you are probably wondering who you should choose to be your
Who makes the best
In order to choose the persons who will provide the best reference
we must first understand what information will be required from your reference.
References are asked to speak to your skills as a nurse practitioner or
physician assistant. In addition to commenting on your readiness for practice many
reference forms contain checklists of skills and your references will be asked
indicate whether or not you are proficient in the performance of those skills
or procedures. In order to choose a viable reference for you this means you
must identify someone who has directly observed the skills you have been
learning during your education. Your preceptors and instructors are in the best
position to provide this information to prospective employers.
Your references will also be asked how long and in what
capacity they have known you. Ideally you should look for persons who have known
you for at least a year. This may not always be possible if your reference is one
of your preceptors. Many clinical rotations do not last an entire year but
because a preceptor has recent and intense exposure to your performance an
exception can be made. If you are asking a supervisor to act as a reference
make sure they have known you over a period of time and the time frame is recent.
You need at least one reference from your program or your
application will raise some serious red flags for employers.
Who should you avoid
using as a reference?
Your coworkers and fellow students don’t carry much
influence when it comes to a reference because they can’t comment on your new
skills. Remember, you are not looking for a job as an RN or an EMT. Sure they can say you are motivated or
reliable but employers already assume anyone who can make it through a rigorous
graduate level clinical program possesses a level of commitment and tenacity.
Professors from your undergraduate program are not terribly
helpful either. The expectations in your new role are different.
And non-healthcare related references should be avoided at
Don't choose a procrastinator to be your reference. Employers won't wait forever for your references to respond. And be sure to give them a heads up so they are not surprised when contacted by your prospective employer.
Did you know that an alarming number of new graduates will be looking for a different job before they have finished one year at their first job?
Your first job after graduation ought to be a positive experience and not have you out combing the job ads for something better. There are a number of reasons new grads become dissatisfied and unhappy with their first position. I would like to offer you a few suggestions to help you avoid ending up in a job you dislike.
- Slow down. You don't need to have a job right away. Don't fall into that trap of thinking that you need to have a job lined up the day after you graduate. You have plenty of time to find the right position so no need to rush. Many bad job decisions are made because new grads felt pressured to start work too soon. It's easy to get into a panic and start feeling the pressure but there is actually more than one advantage to waiting. During the spring and early summer the market is flooded with new grads all competing for the same positions. So take a deep breath, concentrate on passing boards and then begin your search. You will also find once you are licensed you get more responses to your applications.
- Set your emotions aside before saying "yes." As a new grad it's easy to get excited about receiving your first job offer, but before you accept it's important ask yourself if you are taking the job because it's available or because it's the job you really wanted. I have always said that job offers can be a little like marriage proposals - it's so flattering to be asked that you answer before thinking it through completely. And like marriage it's also much harder (and messier) to get out of it than it was to get into it.
- Ask "new grad" questions. Before accepting an offer find out whether the employer has ever hired a new graduate before you. Get specifics on who will be available to you for consults and back up. Will this person physically be onsite when you are working? I can't tell you how many new clinicians found out the hard way that their "collaborating" provider rarely came to the clinic.
- Be clear on expectations. You should ask how long your orientation will be and who exactly will do the orientation. How many patients will you be expected to see during and after orientation?
- Get it in writing. During the hiring process you may interact with a number of folks, all of whom may promise you different things. To protect yourself it is best if you have all promises put on paper.
It's spring! And that means one thing - New Grads. I am going to devote my next few blogs to the graduating class of 2015.
First, let's talk about communicating experience on your resume. New Grads have 2 common misconceptions.
Until I have my first NP or PA job I have no experience.
If you believe this you are selling yourself and your skills short. Your clinical rotations are your most recent and most relevant experience and it is critical that your rotations be front and center on your resume. Create a section on your resume and label it something like "student experience" or "clinical rotations." Under this heading you will list each of your clinical sites much as you would list a paid job. Note the number of hours in each rotation, the focus of the rotation (peds, gyn, etc.) and the skills you mastered during that rotation. It's also helpful to give an example of the number of patients you saw each day - this gives the prospective employer an idea of your productivity. Consult your clinical logs if you need a reminder of what sort of cases and patients you were seeing. Avoid uninformative statements like "proficient at physical exams, assessing and diagnosing." That is the definition of a NP/PA rather than a summary of your individual accomplishments and it won't help you stand out from other applicants. Focus instead on skills you mastered or conditions you managed.
My jobs before and during school count as my experience.
This is a common mistake. NPs tend to want to highlight their nursing experience. Employers want to know that you worked as a nurse but you shouldn't over emphasize this section on your resume. Remember, you are competing against experienced NPs for positions. Experienced NPs that were also nurses too! You shouldn't devote valuable resume space to detailing your job duties as an RN. A simple one or two line entry is sufficient. If employers want to know more about your nursing position they will ask you in an interview.
PAs should follow the same principal for your previous healthcare related jobs. Include the position, but keep it simple. The name of the employer, dates of employment and your job title should be sufficient.
For both NP and PA new grads it isn't necessary to prove to an employer you are reliable and can hold a job. It's understood that if you can make it through a grueling NP or PA program you are no slouch. New grad NPs and PAs should also NEVER include non-medical or non-healthcare work experience on their resume. The only exception is if you were in the military or held a high level position such as a CEO.
Resumes come in a variety of styles. If you are a new graduate or a seasoned NP/PA about to embark on a job search trying to figure out what resume style is appropriate can be extremely frustrating. Your resume is your first contact with a potential employer and you want to get it right. No one has ever been offered a job based on a resume alone; however, there are plenty of applicants who were passed over because of their resumes. Often candidates are passed over not necessarily because their resume was inaccurate, but because it was not the right style and format for our profession.
Let's review the 2 most popular resume styles:
The "functional resume" uses category headings to organize your information. You might see headings such as "skills" or "experience" with a short (or not so short!) paragraph underneath with further details. The paragraph is a sort of summary paragraph and is not job specific. In other words the explanation is a collection of duties or accomplishments acquired from a variety of positions or experiences.
Chronological resumes are organized by date and guide the reader through the applicant's background starting with the most recent first and working backwards in time. Each job is listed separately and includes the particular skills the candidate accomplished under each previous job. In this style the reader knows exactly what you did and when you did it. Chorological resumes use separate headings for your education, licenses and previous work experience.
So which style do healthcare recruiters and hiring managers prefer?
The answer is chronological. The functional resume is suited more to the business world than it is to healthcare. In our professions we like to be able to follow the job seekers professional development over time. It's important to us to know what type of setting the candidate performed certain types of procedures and skills. The functional resume tends to backburner dates in favor of highlighting experiences. It's very disorienting to us if we are unable to determine what your particular role or duties were in each of your past positions. We get very nervous if dates are not clear to us. It makes us wonder if the job seeker is hiding something (like job hopping) if dates are murky.
We also prefer a more traditional resume. Fancy formatting and unique fonts on your resume don't impress us. Including photos and graphics on your resume also does you no favors. No need for famous or inspiring quotes - we are really only interested in the facts. Your resume needs only to communicate how your skills match an employer's needs.
As nurse practitioners, we have been enjoying a pretty strong market. Jobs have been relatively plentiful and compensation has been steadily increasing despite a rather slow economic recovery. Many states have removed or are in the process of removing barriers to our practice. We are gaining visibility in the media. Our jobs are rated year after year as being highly desirable. In general, we are in a good place as a profession.
But before you get too excited I want to let you in on two of the most common market myths that are currently circulating.
Myth #1: That job has YOUR name on it. Don't worry, the position is yours for the taking. Right now there are so many advanced practice positions open that employers are short staffed and desperate to hire.
Truth: Yes, there are more jobs than ever, but that doesn't mean you can count your chickens before they hatch. We may be in a good market but with a lot of openings, but it still remains a very competitive market. Recruiters assure me that for each position they post there is still a large applicant pool. If you want the job you must remain competitive, so you must take care not to let your guard down and get sloppy with your applications.
Myth #2: Everyone is making big bucks. I know, because all my NP and PA "friends" on Facebook are talking about earning a boatload of money.
Truth: Don't believe everything you read. Social media has empowered job seekers in many ways, but it can also lead to some bragging. Candidates are falling prey to other clinician's boasts of huge wages which may or may not be true. This "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality is leading clinicians to think they are worth more than the market will bear. Making outrageous demands for salaries because of what you read on your colleagues social media site can very quickly derail a viable job offer. You will damage your reputation and employers will dismiss you as unreasonable. The smart thing to do is to do your homework in your specialty and geographic area before you start negotiating.
The old saying about not getting a second chance to make a first impression is absolutely true. They say a person forms their opinion of you within the first 10 minutes of meeting you. If you want that opinion to be positive when you are going for an interview then you need to know what not to do to spoil your chances.
Here are 5 interview fails that will leave a bad impression.
- 1. Perfume. This is probably the most frequent complaint I heard from hiring managers. Many healthcare organizations have policies that prohibit wearing scented products so when you show up for an interview and you are wearing your favorite perfume you come off looking a little insensitive (pardon the pun).
- 2. BYOB - bring your own beverage. Showing up with your resume in one hand and a beverage in the other. Finish your Starbucks before your interview please. You give the impression that you are a little too comfortable when you come sauntering in to the room carrying your mocha latte or Diet Coke. I don't know what looks worse, holding and sipping on it during your interview or simply plopping it down on a table next to you.
- 3. Chewing gum. Tacky, tacky, tacky. No one wants to see you chew gum. NO ONE. You might as well stamp the words "inappropriate" on your forehead.
- 4. Watch your %*&# language. I shouldn't have to tell you not to swear but an alarming number of you will use an off color word during your interview. And while I am on the topic of language you also need to watch the slang. For example "do you guys offer health insurance?" The phrase "you guys" is not acceptable business language.
- 5. Purses and bags. It is fine to carry your handbag in to your interview but please tidy it up first. A purse that is open and overflowing with papers and other bits of your life is highly distracting to your interviewer and can leave the impression that you are a disorganized person. One can only imagine what your desk and workspace might look like! And therein lies the problem.
Are you becoming frustrated because you have been applying for jobs and don't receive any response? Does it seem that even though you have all the right qualifications that your applications are still unanswered?
Time to take a look at your tactics.
Here are 3 reasons that recruiters will ignore you and your resume.
- You submitted a generic resume. Resumes are not "one size fits all." Many applicants erroneously believe they can create one master resume and it will be sufficient for each and every job application. Well, it isn't. I don't care whether jobs are plentiful or tight, employers still expect to receive a resume that is tailored to the position for which you are applying. In other words, if you are applying for a position working with elderly patients you can safely leave off your pediatric skills. In fact, leaving descriptions of those unasked for skills on your resume is a signal to a potential employer. Your resume is a marketing tool and when you try to market skills for which an employer has no interest you come off looking like you didn't pay any attention to the job description. Yes, it takes a little extra time to customize your resume for each job but if you really want to be considered for the position you will put in the additional effort.
- Death by mass application. If you are clicking and submitting an application for every NP or PA opening within an organization you won't be taken seriously. Multiple applications say "I am desperate" rather than "I really want to work for you." Every recruiter can name least at least a dozen applicants names that they are sick of seeing come across their computer screen. You really need to avoid multiple applications because it can cause even the most qualified candidates to be ignored - it's that serious of an error. I mean no one can be a good fit for every job! Be aware too that this is a mistake that can have a very long half-life and can haunt you for years to come because digital applications often stay in the system for a very long time.
- Seeking specialty jobs unrelated to your current specialty. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a practice change but if you wish to leave one specialty for another you better provide some context for the recruiter. If you don't, they may assume you are motivated by other reasons, such as salary or hours, rather than the position. Take a few minutes to compose a cover letter explaining your motivation for change. Better yet call and talk to a real person so they can keep an eye out for your application. Many organizations use a computer program to sort through resumes and may not see your resume as a potential match if your experience has been in a different specialty.
It's 2015 and do you know where your professional membership status is?
This year it will be more important than ever to get involved with your local and national organizations. This past year marked the beginning of healthcare reform in the USA. Love it or hate the Affordable Care became law. As you may have noticed, the focus was almost entirely on enrollment numbers. Getting people signed up dominated the news. Getting people covered was the narrative for 2014.
In 2015 I predict that emerging story lines will be divided between two issues: access and cost. As Americans are quickly finding out, coverage does not equal care. It's great that more people are insured but who is going to see them? And if the newly insured are fortunate enough to find a primary provider there is still the problem of cost. At this point the ACA didn't address the out of control healthcare costs. Early reports indicate that healthcare spending is down as whole but if you look further into the data it appears that the savings may be due to high deductibles and copays. In other words, we aren't sure yet if Americans are spending their healthcare dollars wiser or simply foregoing care in order to save money.
As NPs and PAs we understand that we have a large role to play in saving patients money. We also know our patients well and have great ideas for ways to improve healthcare delivery while maintaining quality. Many of us are pioneers in developing innovative care delivery systems.
Which brings me back to why you need to get involved. We need to be part of these discussions on both a local and national level. Venting in an online forum or social media site may feel good but to have a real impact on how care is delivered - and by whom - requires an organization. So unless you want physicians and politicians having all the say in how you do your job you it's critical that you start joining your professional organizations. Change and reform requires influence on a large scale. And unfortunately it all takes money. Money for lobbyists, money for public relations and money for educational campaigns. That money comes from your dues. Happy 2015!
With all that is going on in the world it can be easy to forget there are a lot of good things that happen every day. One of the ways we can count our blessings starts with being grateful to others. Every one of us have people in our life who have supported us in one way or another in our career path. Maybe it was an encouraging word that helped us through a rough day. Maybe they shared a clinical tip or a piece of advice. I bet many of you found your current job because of a tip or recommendation from colleague or friend. Whatever it is, big or small, take a few minutes this holiday season to let them know that you appreciate them.
Get some holiday greeting or note cards and start writing. Sending hand written notes used to be so common, it's really a shame we have moved away from that tradition. Email is better than nothing, just the fact that you took the time to write a personal email shows you were thinking about the recipient.
I know you are saying to yourself "I don't have time for this" but you don't have to write more than a line or two. Taking a few seconds to let someone know you value their friendship will brighten that person's day.
So what are you waiting for? Start making your list. I guarantee when you start thinking about all the kindness and good in people it will brighten your day too. And that's a good thing.
I would like to start my list by thanking the people at Advance -- especially Michelle Perron -- your enthusiasm is inspiring. What a great opportunity you have given me! Your encouragement and belief in what I do has led me to meet some incredible NPs and PAs (and hopefully helped a few) and it all started with this blog.
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
I've conducted many interviews over the years and can tell you that nothing sinks an otherwise successful interview faster than the candidate who asks no questions. Many candidates seem to feel it is acceptable when asked if they have questions to answer with "no, I think you answered them all". Really? You want to commit to spending most of your waking hours in my workplace and you can't think of one thing to ask me? As an interviewer I am left to wonder if the applicant is either dishonest or disinterested. Surely there are a couple questions they could conjure up for me.
I understand that some job seekers feel a little intimidated or don't want to come off as too forward but employers really do expect you to ask some questions. Asking questions shows you are thoughtful and have done your homework. It shows you are engaged and interested in the position. If you are one of those people who just aren't sure what to ask I have some suggestions.
- How many patients will I be expected to see each day? This is such a great question it should be mandatory. If I had a dollar for every clinician who was unhappy in their current position due to patient volume I wouldn't be a poor blogger! Asking about the length of appointment times is another must ask question and can prevent a whole lot of future heartache. One of the most common reasons for termination is productivity (or lack thereof). In other words the clinician was unable to see enough patients per day.
- How long is the orientation? What will be my patient load during orientation? This is not only great information for you to have but it tells the employer you are thinking about what it takes to be successful in their organization.
- What are you looking for in your next employee? This question shows the employer you are thinking about more than just your own needs. It also provides you with key information that you can include when you send your follow up note after the interview. "I am confident I possess (name the aforementioned characteristics) and will be an asset to your clinic".
It can be OK to ask about money and benefits but it is generally better if you wait until the employer brings it up first. You never want compensation to be your opening question. In fact, I maintain that you should know what the salary range is BEFORE getting to the interview stage. If the pay is not acceptable to you then you shouldn't be interviewing. And as a final reminder, no matter what the responses to your questions you must never try to bargain for something different. Save the negotiating until after you have received an offer. The interview is for gathering information not making decisions.
Careful -- how you answer this could make or break your job prospects.
Obviously, if you are looking for a new job you have put a great deal of thought into your decision. I'm sure if I asked you to list your reasons you would have plenty. But will a potential employer find your reasons as compelling as you do?
When explaining to an employer why you want a specific job, you must keep one principle in mind: it's not about what you WANT - it's about what the employer NEEDS. Look at your list; if the reasons you have listed revolve around what the job will do for you, it's time to rethink your list. Sure, it's important that you be happy and to reach your personal goals - provided your happiness and goals are of benefit to the employer. I am not saying you need to completely abandon your reasons, but you might just need to reframe them.
For example: "I have always wanted to work in dermatology, it's been a dream of mine since I graduated."
Now, employers will certainly appreciate that you have a passion, but you need to show the employer how your passion will benefit their practice. Talk about your experience with dermatology; if you don't have experience, tell them what learning opportunities you have engaged in to ready yourself for their job. Let them know how your passion becomes a plus for their patients - and thus their practice. That's what they want to hear.
If your list of reasons includes things like better hours, a shorter commute or just better pay, I recommend you keep that to yourself, because they aren't likely to shed a positive light on your motives! Instead, talk about your skills and how they match the qualifications for the position. You can talk about wanting to use your skill set to a greater degree than you are able to in your current position, which benefits both you and the employer.
Perhaps you want out of your current environment because you don't like your co-workers, your boss or it's just not a pleasant place to work. While that all may be true, that is better left unsaid. Never go negative; instead of telling the employer what you are running away from, you can tell them what it is that you are running towards. Research the employer before you interview so that you can illustrate to them how your values and goals align with the mission and vision of their organization. Explain how you bring to the table exactly what they need. Another win-win. You show the employer you have done your homework and, well, a little flattery never hurts!
Just to be clear, I don't mean a layoff due to restructuring or downsizing. Many employers have been faced with making some hard staffing decisions in this economy so if you were terminated because of something out of your control a prospective employer probably won't hold that against you.
But if the situation was more complicated, I can offer you a couple suggestions.
First of all, don't explain it on paper. Sensitive topics are better delivered to a live person either on the phone or face to face instead of in a cover letter or on your resume. And for the record, it's always better to disclose sooner rather than later.
Never lie. If you are asked about why you left your previous position you must be honest. You can't outrun the truth, sooner or later it will come out and it won't bode well for you. One of the few grounds an employer can use as cause for immediate termination is providing false information in an application or interview.
But you needn't go into the gory details either. Initially offer a limited explanation such as "it wasn't a good fit" or "we came to a mutual decision I would be happier elsewhere" or "we disagreed." Often times that will be sufficient. But if the prospective employer requests more information then try to be concise and stick to the facts. Resist the urge to over-explain or editorialize as that often makes you look bad.
If possible, try to find out what your previous employer says is the reason you were let go. It might surprise you to find out that employers often give vague politically correct answers when asked and are quite cautious about disclosing details about terminations.
There are also ways to phrase your shortcomings that sound less negative. Avoid words like "problem" or "mistake." Choose softer, less negative words. Instead of saying, "I had a problem getting my paperwork done," it will sound better if you say, "I needed to improve my time management skills." I don't mean to imply that you should minimize, but no need to make things sound worse than they were either.
If you were let go for performance reasons, you should be prepared to state what you have done to remediate the problem. Employers are not averse to giving second chances if they feel that they are earned. This means that right after you share the reason for termination you should let them know what you have done to fix it. For example: "My productivity was low because of my computer skills, so I have taken some computer classes".
Stay positive. Never disparage your former employer (even if they might deserve it!). Don't put down your previous supervisor or co-workers. That just makes you look petty and spiteful.
If your transgression was more serious, please see my previous article: Overcoming Negatives in Your Work History.