How to Explain Why You Were Fired in a Job Interview

Maddie Lloyd
by Maddie Lloyd
Get The Job, Guides - 5 months ago

If you’ve ever been let go from a job, “Have you ever been fired?” is one of the scarier and more challenging interview questions you might run into.

As if getting fired didn’t suck enough on its own, now you have to explain what happened, what you learned, and how it’s made you a better worker in the long run. And on top of all of that, you’ve got to tell your interviewers about all of your strengths and why you’re the best person for the job. Is it getting hot in here?

Don’t panic!

Just because you’ve been fired before doesn’t mean you’ll never get another job. You’ll have to tailor your answer to fit your own circumstances and describe how in the end, you came out on top.

Here’s everything you need to know for how to explain being fired in a job interview:

Come to terms with the fact that you were fired before you go into the interview

First thing’s first — you need to come to terms with your emotions and accept the fact that you were fired before you even start scheduling interviews.

Unless you’re going for a job as a newscaster for a particularly polarizing media outlet or a World Wrestling Entertainment personality, employers want to hire someone who can keep their emotions under control and think rationally. Try your best to be that person.

To successfully answer interview questions about being fired, you’re going to have to go into the interview with a level head and calmly talk about what happened. If you can’t reel in your emotions, employers probably won’t give a hoot about any of your skills or qualifications.

Keep your answer short and get to the point

Explaining why you got fired in an interview is no time to beat around the bush, unless you want employers to think that you’re trying to hide something. Giving a straightford and brief answer will get you much further than trying to come up with some elaborate excuse.

Be genuine and honest, but don’t dwell too much on details. Don’t focus your answer on the negative aspects, and instead talk about positive aspects like what you learned from the experience and the skills you developed along the way.

Explain what happened and be honest

There are a few different approaches you can take for explaining the details of why you were let go from your last job, but how you answer depends on your own personal experience. Stick to the truth, because your interviewer can always check in with your former employer, and if you get caught in a lie, well, that’s just embarrassing.

Here are some options for how to explain being fired in an interview:

The job wasn’t a good fit. This is a good option if you’re pursuing an entirely different role or industry. You could mention that the job just didn’t align with your skills, interests, your career path, or your values. Mention how the position you’re interviewing for aligns with your career goals opposed to your failed job experience.

You needed to build your skill set. If you’re interviewing for a job on the same career path or industry, you could mention that you were let go due to your professional limitations. Always make sure to follow this with what you’ve done to address your weaknesses and build your skill set.

The company wasn’t a good fit. This one’s tricky, because you’re going to have to explain why the company wasn’t working for you without blaming them for your mistakes.

A good way to go about this would be to describe a different size employer, industry, or corporate culture that you’re more interested in pursuing. For instance, maybe you’ve worked in a large, corporate setting and are now pursuing a smaller, start up company culture.

Again, make sure to mention how your strengths could be emphasized by working in an environment that’s better suited to your interests, instead of how you were held back by the limitations of your former company.

It wasn’t your fault. Sometimes, being fired can be explained by factors like budget cuts, terminations of products or departments, mergers, or acquisitions. If this happens to be the case for you, feel free to bring it up, but mention your personal success in the role before you lost your job.

You should really only use this explanation if it’s actually the truth, otherwise your interviewer will think that you’re trying to shift the blame away from yourself or just straight-up lying to them, and that’s not going to get you much further in the hiring process.

Talk about what you learned

What’s really going to make your answer successful is talking about what you learned from the experience of losing your job, instead of just saying how much it sucked and that your boss was a huge jerk.

Talk about how you’ve grown and what you’ve done to address the reasons for your getting fired. Mention how you approach your job now, and then get back to talking about your strengths and how would would succeed in the position you’re applying for.

After we lost an account due to my error, I spent a great deal of time reflecting on what I can do to enhance the customer’s experience in my work, and I feel that this will be an asset that will help me succeed in my next role.

Don’t say anything mean about the boss or the company

This is a rookie move that would definitely keep you from getting the job. Don’t be that fool who says “Ah, my old boss was just a huge dumbass. Biggest mistake he ever made was firing me. I’m sure he regrets it now, that company was going down the drain anyway. Next question?”

Even if you felt that you were done the greatest injustice by being fired and that company did make a huge mistake, just keep it to yourself for now. You’ll just come off as a bitter whiny-pants, and no one wants to hire a whiny-pants.

Mention what you have to offer

End your answer on a positive note by reiterating what you can offer the company and how you can succeed in the position. Mention what you learned from the experience of getting fired, and how it’s made you a better employee.

Let the interviewer know that you can do the job better than anyone else, and that you’re very excited for the opportunity to do so.

Things to keep in mind

Remember that interviewers are people too, and everyone makes mistakes at one point or another. Your interviewer may have even been fired at some point in their career, so don’t assume that everyone is going to be against you if you’re asked this question.

If you’ve ever been fired or let go from a job, this can be one a scary interview question to run into. As long as you avoid saying anything negative about your former boss or company and reiterate what you can offer the company, you’ll be good to go.

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