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How to Tell An Interviewer You Were Fired from a Job

October 30, 2019 | By | Reply More

Getting Fired from job

Image courtesy of: LinkedIn Sales Navigator


Getting fired isn’t the end of the world. It happens. It’s nothing you can’t overcome.


“You’re fired!”

That phrase may seem like just a silly 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. The key to doing both successfully is preparation.




“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, include information about that company as you would for any 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 you to go through their ATS application process before you submit a resume. In such cases, there’s just no way to avoid addressing a termination. But under no circumstances should you lie.


However, like a 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 while you wait for responses 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.


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.





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] ( )




* “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.



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


Do you want to interview with a remote company, but don’t know where to find hiring companies? Learn how to find telecommuting jobs with RemoteWork Source!



Let’s talk more about this! Find me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.




Category: Interviewing, Resumes, Telecommuting, Work Ethics

About the Author ()

Pamela La Gioia has been researching and writing about remote work since the early 1990's. She is CEO/Founder of RemoteWork Source, the leading provider of technical and professional remote career opportunities.

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