How to explain being fired in a job interview

So, you got fired. Maybe it was your fault, or maybe the business you worked for was downsizing.

There’s no judgment here. But it does pose a challenge for you the next time you’re sitting down for an interview. Why were you fired? That question is going to come up, whether you like it or not. 

Worry not; we’re going to help you explain what happened and ensure you nail that next job interview

What does the interviewer want to know? 

This is an easy question to answer.

When you’ve been terminated from a position, the interviewer that stands between you and gainful employment is going to want to know whether you were fired due to gross misconduct.

If you were fired due to harassment, theft, or any other egregious action, you’re not going to be able to explain that away.

Unfortunately, these actions are not going to help you get hired somewhere in the future. 

When the question about your past employment comes up, be truthful but be smart.

The interviewer wants to be confident that you haven’t committed a crime, so ensure that that wasn’t the reason you were let go. Be brief, be clear, and be tactful about your answer. Please keep it simple. 

State the reasons for your termination and move the conversation forward. Perhaps bring up how you learned from that experience and then turn the discussion towards your finer qualities.

Being fired in the past doesn’t have to be why you don’t get hired in the future. 

Here are a few key things to remember when the topic comes up: 

  • Don’t point fingers. Your potential new job doesn’t care if your past manager was why you underperformed and were fired. Coming up with reasons to blame or trash your past employer gives the interviewer the impression that you’ll do the same to their reputation. If the reason you were fired was about a poor relationship with your supervisor, state it in simple terms. You didn’t have a strong relationship with your superiors, but you plan to structure your future interactions differently in the future. Use positive words about how you learned from that experience and plan to use it to improve future experiences.
  • Don’t use “fired.” This is a simple way to control the narrative. The word “fired” has negative connotations, regardless of why you were terminated. Try utilizing the phrase “let go” when discussing your previous employer. This may also assist in moving the conversation along. Many people were “let go” or made redundant this year, and interviewers will be used to hearing this phrase — no questions asked. 
  • Don’t be emotional. Getting fired is difficult for anyone, whether you loved or hated your past job. Be sure you’ve come to terms with your emotions before you step into the interview. The last thing you want to do is cry, get angry, or say something you can’t take back. Talk it through with friends or family before the interview and be prepared. Don’t let your past failures hurt your potential.
  • Don’t be negative. This goes along with our first point about playing the blame game. Don’t talk negatively about your past work experiences. Keep all of your language in the interview room forward-focused. Make it clear to your interviewer that you have learned, internalized, and plan to utilize what you’ve learned to be a better employee moving forward. Positivity goes a long way during job interviews. 

The Bottom Line 

Getting fired is an uncomfortable experience, and it undoubtedly makes your next job interview more stressful than it has to be. The best thing you can do is to accept your past mistakes and move forward.

Fortunately, most interviewers understand that not every job is the right fit for every employee, and sometimes there are clear-cut reasons why employees have been terminated. It’s not the end of the world. 

The best thing you can do is apply what you’ve learned and use it to further your career. Make it clear what you have to offer and put your best foot forward during your next interview.