How to Explain a Termination in a Job Interview

If you've been terminated from a job, you may be nervous about having to explain the circumstances to

potential employers. You want to make yourself look good, but you also don't want to get caught up in a lie.

No matter what led to your termination, it's important to be honest and confident. You will also need to learn

how to turn a negative into a positive so that your interviewer will look right past your previous termination.


Answering the Tough Questions

1. Be honest. When your interviewer asks you why you left your last job, the best thing you can do is be

honest. Making up stories will only make you seem irresponsible and untrustworthy.

2. Stick to the facts. Try to avoid getting emotional when explaining why you were fired, even if you feel

strongly about it. Instead, offer a very brief description of the events that resulted in your termination.

3. Don't point the finger. A prospective employer is not likely to believe you if you blame your termination

solely on your former employer and don't accept any personal responsibility. Be sure to comment at least

somewhat on your own role, even if you just say that you were not the right fit for the company's culture or

the specific job.

4. Don't complain. It's never a good idea to say anything negative about your former employer during

an interview, no matter what the circumstances.

5. Save the details about a wrongful termination. Even if you feel you were discriminated against, it's

usually best not to let your interviewer know that you are pursuing or are considering pursuing legal action

against your former employer. While it is technically illegal to not hire you because of this, the interviewer

may see it as a red flag nonetheless. You don't want to give your prospective employer any reason to believe

that you will cause legal problems for them in he future.

6. Show that you have learned from your mistakes. Once you acknowledge what went wrong at your

last job, it's important to communicate what lessons you've taken away from that experience. Talk about how

you have grown and how you would confront the same situation if it happened today.

7. Surround the negatives with positives. If you need to say something a little bit negative in order to

explain your termination, make sure to surround the statement with positive remarks to avoid sounding overly


8. Turn the attention to your other work history. If you have only been fired once and have an otherwise

good record, focus on your past achievements, emphasizing that being fired was an anomaly for you.

Minimizing the Importance of the Termination

1. Don't be ashamed of a layoff. Being laid off is not the same thing as being fired. It likely had more to

do with the company's bottom line than it did with your performance, and your interviewer knows that. If you

were laid off, try not to worry too much about how it will look.

2. Cut yourself some slack. Even if you were fired for some kind of wrongdoing, it's important not to eat

yourself up about it. If you do, it may have a negative effect on your confidence, which can come across to

prospective employers as a lack of competence.

3. Talk to your former employer. Depending on how exactly things ended with your last employer, you

may be able to get their support. Talk to your former employer about providing a reference for you when you

begin looking for a new job. Even though you were fired, they may still have some nice things to say about

you, and you may be able to work out a mutually acceptable story about your termination.

4. Save the details. You don't need to state why you left your last job on your resume or in your cover letter,

unless the question is specifically asked. Even if you are asked to provide an answer in writing, keep it brief

and nonspecific. You can offer more details during your in-person interview.

5. Boost your resume. If you were out of work for a while after being terminated, you may be worried

about how your extended absence from the workforce will look on your resume. Instead of looking like you

were doing nothing during this period of unemployment, show your prospective employer that you spent

the time enhancing your skills.

6. Ooze professionalism. If you want your prospective employer to look past your termination, one of the

best things you can do is put some extra effort into being professional. Don't give your interviewer any reason

to doubt your ability to get the job done.


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