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How To Explain Why You Were Fired from Your Last Job

By Gerald Walsh ©

Being fired can be embarrassing especially if your dismissal was due to poor performance or a personality clash with your boss.

You know this question will come up in future interviews. What is the best way to respond? How can you explain your leaving in the best possible light, so it does not jeopardize future job prospects?

1. Deal with your emotions before starting to interview.

If your firing was unexpected, you might still be in a state of shock and denial. Or you may be angry and bitter toward your previous employer.

It is important these emotions be under control before you set foot in an interview room. Any display of these emotions during the interview could be a deal breaker. Interviewers will expect you to be poised, confident, and ready to answer questions like a professional.

2. Prepare your answer but don’t sound too scripted.

Whatever the reasons are for your leaving, take time to organize your thoughts and consider how this explanation will be received and interpreted by the interviewer.

Then rehearse your answers preferably in a mock interview session with a friend or colleague. Ask them to listen to your answer, observe your body language, and give honest feedback.

3. Keep your answer simple and to the point.

Long, carefully-rehearsed answers will make it seem like you are hiding something. Keep the tone positive—emphasizing that the past is behind you, and you are moving forward.

4. Bring it up before the interviewer does.

If you bring up the issue first, you will come across as confident, truthful, and open. Interviewers will appreciate your frankness and likely move on to the rest of the interview.

5. Never blame your former boss or employer.

This is a big no-no, even if you feel you were wronged. Accept at least some responsibility for the outcome. Stay positive and focus on what you learned from the process.

6. Don't lie and make up stories.

Some job candidates say things like ”We agreed mutually that it was time for me to leave.” Interviewers know that is almost never true.

One lie usually leads to another and before you know it you are in over your head. Remember: references can be checked and any indication you lied in the interview will mean you won’t get the job.

7. Verify what your previous employer will say.

A potential new employer will want to speak to your previous employer and ask about the circumstances around your departure. This is why it is important for you to have this conversation with your former employer and learn what they will say about you.

A final note.

No doubt, you’ve heard someone say, “It’s easier to find a job when you have a job.” While that may have been true in the past, it’s no longer relevant.

Stigma associated with being fired and unemployed is not what it used to be. That’s because with all the corporate restructuring that has taken place, many people have been laid off, fired, downsized, or dismissed at one time or another. How you deal with it, though, will determine the outcome.


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 30 year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.