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Job Search Tips

How Do You Tell a Potential Employer You Were Fired?

bad-employee2Were you fired from your last job? Not sure how to address this to future employers? You’re not alone.

Several years ago I left a job under less-than-ideal circumstances. It was a complicated situation, and for several months I sweated over how to explain the circumstances about why I left my last job to future employers. Thankfully I never had to explain it in a job interview or on an application, but I did work hard in preparation in case I did.

With employers finding any reason to screen out job candidates, any blemish on a person’s work history can be just enough to take a person out of the running. When a person was fired, it’s no wonder they worry about how to address the situation to a future employer. And while there’s no set response to give, here are a few pointers to help.

1. Be brief. I find it helps to write out the whole situation beforehand, and then whittle it down to just the barest facts. Don’t spend a lot of time on such a negative subject.

2. Be objective. It’s likely that talking about a recent firing will involve some negative statements about past supervisors or coworkers, which could get dicey at best. Speak as objectively as possible and avoid judgment statements (“He was very irate” is a judgment on my part; “His face went red and he started yelling” are objective observations). Relate observations and let others draw their own conclusions.

3. If you made mistakes, owe up to them. Admitting you made a mistake or did something wrong is the first step towards correcting it. People respect when a person admits errors, and everyone makes them. Admit them. Then speak to how you’ve learned from them.

4. End on a positive note. Use a three-pronged strategy: positive – negative – positive. You liked the job, you were fired because you did something wrong, you learned from that experience and this is how you’ll do better next time. If you can, bring the topic back around to the value you bring to this employer.

Remember the objective is to put the employer at ease in the hope that you won’t bring any bad habits or problems to your future job.


About kimberlyjmyers

I am a workforce development professional in Washington State. I have ten years experience working with dislocated workers, vocationally impaired, and people with disabilities on many levels and backgrounds from offenders to non-English speaking refugees from around the world. The One thing the clients I have worked with all had in common: there was some barrier to employment, and I work diligently every day to identify, address and remove those barriers.


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June 2014
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