How to Talk About Getting Fired (Part 1)

Were you fired or let go from your previous job? Not sure what to say in your interview when you’re asked, “Why did you leave your last position?”  The Public Speaker has tips on how to handle this dicey situation.

Lisa B. Marshall,
November 29, 2012
Episode #180

Page 2 of 2

The Interview

If you make it to the next set of interviews in the process, you’ll likely be interviewed by your potential manager and by several people you will be working with. When you’re meeting with several different people, it’s likely that the question of why you left your last position will come up more than once.

It is important that you are consistent with your response and that you have a positive spin. Again, tell them why you’re excited for the opportunity to move to this particular position. Then simply say it was time to move on from your previous job. Don’t ever lie about what happened, but again, I also don’t recommend voluntary full disclosure either. Keep it positive, keep it objective, and stick to the truth.

You’re Almost There

The final step will be employment verification and reference checks. Your new employer will likely call your previous company to verify your employment. They will check your employment dates and will probably ask about your reason for leaving. It’s common to ask, “Would you hire this person again?” More and more companies offer generic answers to these types of questions. It is possible the company won’t want to risk a lawsuit and may not mention you were terminated. Instead, they may simply say “Yes” when asked if they would hire you again. But, on the other hand, they may respond with a “No” and state that you were fired. In this case, you should be prepared to answer more questions.

Remember, your references will also be called at this point. At this stage, you should call each person again and let them know they’ll be hearing from someone for a job that seems like a perfect fit. Thank them in advance for helping you out, and explain what information you think would be most valuable for them to share. If they know the reason you were fired, let them know that you haven’t discussed it in depth with the new employer, and that you’d appreciate it if they didn’t bring it up. Make sure they know you’re not asking them to lie, but if at all possible, to let you handle that part of the process.

Ultimately, if your reference checker discovers you were fired, you’ll be asked about it. Be straightforward and direct, but you don’t need to provide all the gory details. Refer back to what you said in your interview. “As I mentioned during the interview process, I learned a lot at that company and it was time to move on. It is true that I made a mistake and I learned a valuable lesson from it. I’m excited for this new opportunity, and I can assure you that I don’t make the same mistakes twice.”

That just might be enough to allow you to move forward, but sometimes you’ll need to explain a bit more. In part two of this series, I’ll give your more details on what to say (and not to say) when asked about the details of why you got fired. 

This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker.  Passionate about communication; your success is my business.


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