Wednesday, 27 December 2023
Categories: Blogs

How to Explain Leaving a Job When Fired


Most of us have been there – sitting in a job interview, feeling like things are going well when the interviewer asks a question that makes your stomach drop. “Why did you leave your last job?” As innocent as it may sound, this question is a minefield, especially if you were fired from your last job. One wrong move can blow up your chances in seconds.


Below, we’ll break down this question, why it’s so tricky, and how to tactfully handle it without damaging your candidacy if you have a termination in your past.

Why It’s Asked


Interviewers ask this for two main reasons:


  1. To assess potential red flags. Were you fired or let go? Did you have conflicts with management? They want to uncover any skeletons hiding in your work history closet.
  2. To evaluate your judgment and self-awareness. How tactfully and honestly can you discuss sensitive topics? Do you take ownership of failures or blame others? They want insights into your critical thinking and maturity.


In essence, it reveals your professional judgment and integrity, which are hugely important if they’re considering you for an open position.


Why a Termination Answer Can Tank Your Chances


If you were fired or let go, answering this question wrong can immediately eliminate you from the hiring process. Here are some dangerous approaches that you should avoid while interviewing:


  • Lying or majorly twisting the truth. Few things disturb interviewers more than catching a candidate in a clear fabrication. It exposes terrible judgment and erodes all trust.
  • Bad-mouthing previous employers. Even if your termination was unfair or harsh, provocative boasts towards past bosses cast you in an extremely negative light. They’ll worry you’ll later attack them, too, if hired.
  • Not taking any ownership. Passing full blame onto others signals immaturity and a lack of accountability for your career. It’s a giant red flag that something similar could repeat.


Essentially, anything dishonest, bitter, or evasive destroys your credibility almost instantly. Interviews seek the truth – the good and the bad.


How to Tactfully Discuss a Termination


  • Don’t volunteer unprompted details. If not asked specifically if you were fired, don’t offer that info where avoidable. But if asked directly, respond honestly.
  • Remain calm and neutral in tone. Discuss factually without emotions clouding your judgment. Don’t sound defensive, angry, or resentful.
  • Take ownership where reasonable. Explain your contributions to the situation humbly and maturely. But don’t fall on your sword, claiming all blame is unfair.
  • Speak respectfully about past employers. Even if the firing was unjustified, avoid disparaging leaders or companies. Be the bigger person.
  • Pivot to the positive. After briefly explaining the termination, redirect the conversation to what you learned and how you’ve grown. Interviewers care more about the future outlook than past issues.


It comes down to being transparent but also discreet – leveraging emotional intelligence to navigate tricky situations. Demonstrate you can handle sensitive topics with grace and wisdom. That ability speaks volumes about your leadership abilities.


In Closing


The “Why did you leave your last job?” question can be a pivotal moment in an interview. If you have a thoughtful response prepared that focuses on moving forward in a positive way, it can help demonstrate your maturity and professionalism. But if you become defensive or emotional, it may hurt your chances. Try to take accountability for any legitimate issues while also being fair to yourself. An honest, level-headed answer shows the poise and self-awareness that employers look for in strong candidates. With practice and preparation, you can handle this question in a way that represents you at your best.


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