How To Explain Getting Fired In All Stages of the Job Search

Getting let go does not feel good, no matter what the reason. If your position has been terminated, it’s entirely appropriate to ask why, and you should. Is your company firing you because of a performance issue? Or are they downsizing? These are very different reasons, and explaining a layoff and firing both come with their own set of rules.

explain being fired

Now that you’ve asked and learned you’ve been fired, it’s time to move on and start over. How do you acknowledge your termination in your application? On your resume? During your job interview? Here’s how to handle every step in the process.

1. How To Explain Getting Fired When Filling Out An Online Job Application

Applications often include a question asking whether you’ve been fired from a job, and if you have, you should be honest. Some applications also include an opportunity for you to explain why you were let go, and you should be honest here, too—but wait! There are rules around that too.

But first, if you aren’t asked why, don’t volunteer the specifics on the application. The potential employer will discuss the situation with you in the interview stage at her discretion. Jumping to an explanation now will look like making excuses…no matter how diplomatic you try to be.

If the application does request an explanation, make it brief, keep it high level, and resist negativity. Avoid the words “terminated” and “fired” even though, yes, they know you have been based on your answer to the main question. Was the reason you were laid off specific, such as chronic lateness? Address it and the ways you’ve fixed the behavior. Keep your wording positive—this is an opportunity for you to move on to a company (and a role) that’s a better fit.

2. How To Explain Getting Fired On Your Resume

This is an easy one: Do not mention you were fired anywhere on your resume. There is absolutely no need to do so. Your resume should include the company name, your title, the time period in which you worked there, and the duties you performed. Your resume is supposed to highlight the best and most significant points in your career—it’s not where you outline your stumbles and mistakes. It’s where you brag.

3. How To Explain Getting Fired In An Interview

It’s a good idea to think about what you will say and practice beforehand (just like you prepare for any interview question). This is where you get to outline—in person—the circumstances behind your termination. Don’t insult your previous boss or give excuses. Own up to what you did in the briefest terms, and immediately explain how you’ve corrected the behavior. What have you learned? How have you grown? Let your potential employer know how the experience has helped you mature. You future boss wants to be confident the issues you had in the past won’t be brought into the company, and the old saying is true—everyone makes mistakes; show that instead of sulking and dwelling, you’ve learned and moved on.

Getting fired doesn’t mean your career is over, and it doesn’t mean you have a permanent stain on your work life. Think of this as an opportunity to develop—to become more responsible and dependable—and stay positive. You’ll get another chance to show the work world how much you have to give!

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