How to explain being fired

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February 25, 2021
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min read

Getting fired from a job can take time to recover from. You may feel like this incident will hang over you forever, or that it's a blight on your resume that will make you undesirable to future employers. But getting back out there and applying for new jobs can be the best way to get a confidence boost and fresh start.

Once you have a job interview lined up though, the question of how to explain being fired will probably be weighing on your mind. But with the tips below, you'll be able to navigate any awkward question that might come your way.

Should you Tell an Employer that you Were Fired?

You are probably wondering if it is even necessary to tell an employer about being fired. While it can be tempting to just lie or gloss over that unfortunate part of your work life, being dishonest about it could get you in trouble later on. Honesty is the best policy, so when they ask you why you left your previous job, avoid trying to hide the truth from the hiring manager by saying you left voluntarily or were laid off.

These days, it is easier than ever for employers to do a background check, so they'll likely discover your secret sooner or later. And if they find out from your former employer that you've lied, you can assume you won't get the job.

So instead of trying to hide it, embrace it. Think about what you've learned from the termination and how it makes you stronger as an employee.

How to explain Being Fired

There are countless different reasons for job termination, and not all are necessarily 'bad'. Maybe you just didn't meet your employer's expectations, or the workload turned out to be more than you expected and the quality of your work suffered.

Perhaps it was something bigger, like a dispute with your co-workers or a breach of company policy. Whatever the reason, it is important to reflect on your own situation to better understand what it means for you going forward in your job search.

Thinking about what you've learned from your experience can help you craft a professional and tactful answer, making it a strength rather than a weakness. So when you hear the words "Why did you leave your previous job?", you'll know all the right things to say.

So what is the best way to explain that you were fired?

Keep it Positive

The key thing is to frame it in as positive a light as possible. For example, if you take responsibility and show an employer that you understand why you were fired, they'll see you as someone who can learn and improve. If they feel like you have become a more experienced and conscientious worker as a result of being let go in the past, they could still consider you a valuable addition to their team.

Be careful with what you say. If your departure from your last job was amicable on all sides, then it should be easier to briefly explain what went wrong.

But if you were let go on less-than-friendly terms, it is crucial that you don't play the blame game or bad-mouth your previous employer to the hiring manager. To do so would come across as bitter and immature, possibly costing you your next job.

Be Brief

Another mistake you will want to avoid is going into great detail about your termination. While it is a bad idea to say nothing at all about being fired, saying too much could also go against you.

Simply give a brief response detailing the reasons for leaving your last job, and if pushed further, remember to draw everything back to your enthusiasm for a new opportunity. Drawing attention away from the negative aspects of the situation is more likely to keep the interview flowing, so you can focus on selling yourself and your skills as a candidate.

While this article has gone into detail about how to explain being fired, in reality, the topic will only take up a fraction of the conversation. You have a whole interview and plenty of other questions to show your competence and worth as a potential employee. Take advantage of the situation and keep everything on the positive side.

Be Prepared

The best advice for any aspect of a job interview is to be prepared. This is especially true when it comes to explaining why you were fired from your previous job. If you go into the interview without having thought about what you should say to hiring managers, you might be caught off guard by the interviewer and fall into some of the traps mentioned above.

Try to come up with a basic response that you can use if the question comes up (which it probably will) that gives a brief, honest, and optimistic view of the situation to the interviewer. If you left your last job on good terms, it might be possible to get a reference from your previous employer. This can be a great way to inspire confidence in a skeptical recruiter, but don't worry if this is not a possibility for you — making a good impression is about how you present yourself, after all.

In conclusion, remember that being fired from a job in the past shouldn't stop you from acing an interview. As long as you keep it honest, positive, and to the point, explaining why you were fired from your last position doesn't need to be awkward.

Lastly, preparing in advance for this question will help you feel confident and professional in your next interview for employment. Make sure you practice for this interview question in a way that demonstrates to employers that you can still be a good fit for their company, and that it was a learning experience that has helped you to improve your focus on your career.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I address the reason for being fired in a job interview?

When addressing the reason for being fired in a job interview, it's important to be honest yet strategic. Briefly explain the situation without placing blame or speaking negatively about your previous employer. Focus on what you learned from the experience and how it has made you a stronger candidate. Emphasize your commitment to professional growth and your readiness to contribute positively to the new role.

Can being fired from a job affect my chances of getting hired in the future?

Being fired from a job does not necessarily affect your chances of getting hired in the future, especially if you handle the situation professionally. Employers understand that terminations can occur for various reasons. What's important is how you've moved forward from the incident. Demonstrating resilience, a willingness to learn from the experience, and how you've improved can reassure potential employers of your professionalism and dedication.

What details should I include in my resume or cover letter regarding a job from which I was fired?

In your resume or cover letter, you do not need to disclose that you were fired from a job. Instead, focus on your achievements and responsibilities in that position. If there is a significant employment gap due to being fired, you can address it briefly in your cover letter by focusing on how you've used the time for professional development or pursuing other interests that contribute to your career goals.

Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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