How Do I Tell A New Company I Was Fired from a Job?

October 30, 2019 | By | Reply More

Getting Fired from job

Talking about getting fired is difficult. It’s also confusing to know when the best time is to address it.  Image: LinkedIn


Getting fired can feel like the end of the world. Here’s how to overcome.


“You’re fired!”

That phrase may seem like a silly television show quip. But when it’s you on the receiving end, it sure as hell isn’t funny. In fact, hearing those words can feel like a kick in the gut.


I’ve heard those nasty words before so believe me, I get it. But I learned that it’s best to process the ordeal quickly, and immediately start looking for a new position. If this doesn’t seem possible, trust me, it is. In fact, some of the most successful people in the world have had those words thrown at them at least once.


There are, of course,  a couple of hurdles to overcome. First, how to present the termination on your resume and/or application. Second, how to address it in a job interview.



“There could be multiple reasons a  ‘good’ employee may be fired. From poor management, office politics, and lack of leadership to simple downsizing, many job seekers who are looking for jobs are actually high caliber talent and should present themselves in just such a way.”



Addressing a termination in your resume

How much information should you put on your resume about a past termination? Most experts say, none. Nada.  There should be no mention of it anywhere on your resume.


“Your resume showcases the best things about your work history,” says David Livermore at “Stating that you were fired from a job will likely result in the prospective employer throwing your resume away without giving you a chance.”


On a resume, present information about the company that terminated you, the same as you would other companies. Perhaps, highlight extra positives about your role and performance during that time.


If you were fired some time ago creating an employment gap, a good way to detract attention from that is to use a “hybrid format” resume. This is one that begins with the positives about your career history, such as skills, experience, and other qualifications.


“Then detail your employment history in reverse chronological order. When you list your strong points first, there’s a better chance that hiring managers will be impressed enough to want to talk with you despite the gap,” according to



past termination

Photo courtesy: LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Putting a termination on an application

Many companies still require candidates to go through the their ATS application process before or after submitting a resume. In such cases, there’s just no way to avoid addressing a termination. But under no circumstances should you lie.


However, like your resume, you want to use the application to showcase your positives, and get you to an interview so you can discuss the termination face to face, in a more positive light. So, when asked to fill in a reason you were fired, you can be vague using words like “job ended”, “terminated”, “laid off”.



Before an interview

There’s a lot you can do as you wait for a response to your resume. This is a time to do some important preparation and damage control.



Do everything you can to emotionally process the termination. If your heart still races from thinking about it, or you feel angry, then talk to a professional or objective person. If you believe you were wronged, forgive them. If you wronged, forgive yourself.


If emotions are not fully process there’s the risk that during an interview these emotions will involuntarily surface. You will come across as bitter and angry which can kill your chance of landing the job.


“You don’t want to go into the interview still feeling raw about what happened, so take time to process the events that took place and put things in perspective. Turn this into a powerful learning experience from which you can really grow. In all likelihood, that’s exactly what it was for you. Now you just need to learn to articulate that,” writes Eat Your Career founder, Chrissy Scivicque.


Be a fly on the wall

Surveys show that most prospective employers check references of shortlisted candidates. Before you reach that point, prepare your recommendations.


If you and your previous employment ended on bad terms, it would be wise to find out what that company will say about you. Some career experts suggest having a friend pose as a hiring company to call and learn what they say about your termination.


Another option is to enlist the help of a reference checking service. Though not free, this has other benefits that an associate can’t offer, such as filing a Cease & Desist letter if it turns out your past employer totally bashes you.



Whatever route you choose, don’t presume that your previous employer won’t explain your termination in some detail. They have a legal right to discuss your performance, your professional conduct, and your termination.



Discussing a termination during an interview

If you’ve made it to an interview, give yourself a big thumbs up. This is your opportunity to sell yourself.


Focus on the positive aspects of your earlier job performance, such as how you helped the company achieve its goals, increase profits, or gain more customers.


Do not attempt to contradict what your previous employer might say. Instead, try to describe your termination as a mutual separation. Ellie Williams at gives these examples:


“Unless you lost your job for wrongdoing*….. frame your departure as a mutual parting of ways. For example, ‘My supervisor and I felt that the position was not a good match for my skills and goals, so I decided to seek an opportunity where I can fully utilize my knowledge and talents.’ Or, you can say ‘My work style was not a good fit for the corporate culture, and we decided it was best if I search for a position that was a better fit.’”



During your interview be honest but brief. Use facts; not opinions like, “I feel they fired me because the new supervisor didn’t like me…” Further, do not blame your previous employer, and do not bad-mouth them in any way! Show respect for the company’s decision to part ways with you.


Reveal to the interviewer how your termination taught you an invaluable lesson and made you a better person. Help them to see you as someone able to own their mistakes and use it to grow.


Describe, if possible, the corrective actions you’ve taken to learn from your mistake and not repeat it. This is especially important if you were fired for a wrongdoing. The prospective employer needs to feel confident you won’t replay the mistake or wrongdoing under their roof.


Says Scivicque, “It’s almost inevitable that as a result of this experience, you’ll be a different employee. Talk about that. How will you prevent this kind of thing from happening again in the future? What specific changes have you made in your own professional behavior to help ensure this isn’t a recurring theme in your career?”




Going forward

Getting let go from a company isn’t the end of the world. It happens. Yes, it creates additional challenges for your job search, but it’s nothing you can’t overcome.


In fact, an in-depth study by Harvard Business Review found that being fired can actually make a stronger candidate to prospective employers! Again, it depended on how they handled the setback, and what they did to learn and grow from it.



“Those who deflect ownership and instead point to external factors or blame others for failures on their watch don’t do as well. Our data shows that candidates who blamed others cut their chances of being recommended for hire by one-third. Strong performers own their mistakes, and describe what they learned and how they adjusted their behavior and decision making to minimize the chances of making the same mistakes in the future. Having several different types of career blow ups does not derail you. Repeating the same blowup over and over does.” [Emphasis mine]



Your turn: Have you ever been fired and triumphed despite it? Tell us below what you did.


* “Wrongdoing” usually refers to something criminal, such as stealing or assaulting a colleague. Or it could refer to misconduct such as sexual harassment or making a racist remark. It does not imply poor performance.



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Category: Interviewing, Resumes, Telecommuting, Work Ethics

About the Author ()

Pamela La Gioia is a resume writer and LinkedIn profile expert. She is also a pioneer in remote work, and has been researching and writing about remote work since the early 1990's. You can follow her on LinkedIn, for resume tips, LinkedIn insight, and general career help.

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