How to Explain Being Fired in a Job Interview

Calendar Icon
December 17, 2021
Edited by
Clock Icon
min read

You have the experience, the abilities, and the right skills for the job — but one unpleasant experience of being fired can make you doubt that you will be able to land the next opportunity. It is frustrating to know that you can efficiently deliver what a hiring manager requires, but having been previously fired can make recruiters doubt your potential. 

If you have a hard time explaining employment history, then you should know that a little preparation can help you present yourself in a good light and make your potential employers cast aside doubts about your potential to be a great employee. 

But before all that, it is important to understand why employers ask this question. 

Why Do Employers Ask About Your Lay-off? 

As a job seeker, you may have experienced that potential employers often ask you why you’re leaving or why you left your job. Hiring managers do this to establish and ensure you do not have a habit of “job hopping”. How you answer helps the interviewer determine your willingness to work with them in the long run and how obligated you would feel towards your role. 

How Should You Respond to the Question? 

So, how do you prepare yourself for the interview questions, especially the most dreaded one: why were you fired? 

Here are a few tips that can help you successfully go through the process: 

1. Be Honest

The first and the most important thing to remember is to make peace with your past and to stop hiding it. Trying to cover up a bad job experience by embellishing it or removing it entirely will also not cut it. You may end up blustering or saying something nonsensical, which, when checked by your recruiter, may prove to be false, landing you in even more trouble. So, hiding or lying about it can be worse than being fired.

The best way to approach this situation is to be completely honest and take responsibility for what happened. Whether it was a lay-off or you were fired due to your unsatisfactory performance, being honest at the beginning will be taken positively by your employer. For example, you can explain to your employer that due to the challenging nature of the job, you could not efficiently demonstrate the required skills. 

Whatever the case, accept that your performance did not meet the required standard despite your honest efforts. However, while admitting this, be sure not to come out as incompetent or lazy. Ensure that you come across as a motivated and ambitious individual, willing to grow and perform better than before. You have to show that even though your previous employment experience did not work out well, you have learned to pace yourself and are willing to perform more effectively than before. 

2. Don’t Play the Blame Game 

While you have taken the responsibility and are moving forward with honesty, remember not to play the defensive card. While it may be true that you were fired not because of your performance but due to the company’s negligence to provide you with the right tools and support, never bluntly blame your previous employer. 

Blaming someone else is commonly seen as a trait of an aggressor, and you surely don’t want to sound like one to your hiring manager. 

3. Fired or Laid Off? Make It Clear

There are various reasons for getting fired. While one of the most common reasons for termination is below-average performance, companies often lay off employees due to their financial inability to retain them. 

You must establish the line and make it clear to your potential employer that your reason for being fired was not due to your performance but because of the downsizing or restructuring of the company. For example, several people had to be laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic as companies could not retain them. Such layoffs are often temporary, but employees choose to switch jobs rather than wait. Tackle this aspect gracefully and immediately clear your potential employer’s reservations about your skills and abilities. 

4. Share What You Have Learned 

Making mistakes is common, but how you grow through your mistakes is what paves your way forward. While you explain to your recruiter why you were fired, end your statement with what you have learned and how you plan to implement your learnings in the future. 

Being self-reflective and objective is the key to positively impacting your employer and shifting their perspective about you. 

5. Present Recommendations and Achievements 

A workspace has many levels. In a professional capacity, people interact, collaborate, and work with groups to execute various tasks. It is not only your boss who can vouch for your abilities but your colleagues, managers, supervisors, and other team members. Ask your co-workers and seniors to write LinkedIn recommendations for you. 

Two or three recommendations on your LinkedIn profile can demonstrate to your hiring manager that your skills and professional ethics were valued by other team members of the same circle. 

6. Be Confident

Fired or not fired, confidence remains one of the top aspects of a successful job interview. If you are not confident during your interview, your potential employer may assume that you aren’t self-confident and lack self-assurance. If you feel anxious, practice your interview with a friend or family to build your confidence. 

Remember, no matter how weak your resume may seem at the end of the day, it is you who is the best judge of your abilities. Thus, before going for an interview, you have to assert that you have the capacity and right skills for the job you are being interviewed for.  


Nailing a job interview is a difficult task, especially when your previous job did not end on a positive note. But being fired does not define your professional capabilities, so embrace your journey towards a new career opportunity with your head held high.

Frequenty Asked Questions

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.

We help you find
the career dream.