Complex Made Simple

How to deal with “Why were you fired?” questions during a job interview

Just as you prepare answers for other common interview questions, it's important to prepare an answer for this one: “Why were you fired?”

Before you can answer your potential employer honestly, you need to be clear-eyed with yourself Speak in ways that minimize the impact of your termination and move quickly to skills you learned "I outlasted several downsizings, but the last one included me. Sign of the times, I guess"

Just as you prepare answers for other common interview questions, it’s important to prepare an answer for this one: “Why were you fired?

The interviewer is looking to see how you cope with adversity, to find out if the issue is no longer a problem, and that you can take responsibility for your actions, thereby demonstrating personal and  professional growth.

Here are some tips to help you explain a termination to a potential employer.

Honesty
Before you can answer your potential employer honestly, you need to be clear-eyed with yourself.

When addressing your termination with your interviewer, be truthful in a way that reflects on you as favorably as possible, but without speaking negatively about a job from which you were made redundant.

No matter how unfairly you felt you were treated at your old job, you must recognize and accept your role in your termination.

Your potential new employer wants to see that you take responsibility both for your past actions and for your performance on the job. 

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Be short on details

Just make sure at some point you say, “I take responsibility for not performing up to my boss’s expectations,” and move on.

You’ll make yourself unattractive to a potential employer if you come across as bitter. 

Speak in ways that minimize the impact of your termination and move quickly to skills you learned and the experience you acquired. 

Including a “lessons learned” sentence in your answer shows potential employers you’re aware and adaptable.  

Talk about the positives
 Try transitioning with a phrase like this: “I was sorry to leave Company X; I learned a lot about the development lifecycle there, which is why I thought my skills were well suited to this position.”

Examples of escape answers

Here are some answers that are worth the risk and transition you smoothly from the “why were you cut loose” question. 

Being cut loose was a blessing in disguise. Now I have an opportunity to explore jobs that better suit my qualifications and interests. My research suggests that such an opportunity may be the one on your table. Would you like to hear more about my skills in working with new technology?”

Or, the good old “My job was outsourced. It was unfortunate because people familiar with my work say I did my job well and I always got excellent reviews from my managers.”

Even better is “I outlasted several downsizings, but the last one included me. Sign of the times, I guess.”

Finally, “I was desperate for work and took the wrong job without looking around the corner. I won’t make that mistake again.”

History does repeat itself.