How Do I Explain Getting Fired?

Post date: Jun 28, 2012 12:57:03 PM

By Paul W. Barada, Monster Salary and Negotiation Expert

How do you explain getting fired to a prospective employer? While there isn't an easy answer to this interview question, there are two important steps you can take to minimize the potentially negative effects of being terminated, separated or whatever euphemism you want to substitute for the word "fired."

Be Honest

There's no good way to sugarcoat being fired, so the best course of action is to tell a prospective employer, as honestly, objectively and candidly as possible, your view of what happened. The worst thing any job seeker can do is to be less than honest about the reason for leaving an employer and then have somebody check your references and discover you lied. That's a sure ticket to the unemployment office.

Part of the difficulty in giving a simple answer comes from the multitude of reasons why people get fired. There is no stock phrase that fits every situation when it comes to explaining to a prospective employer why you left your last job. The only certain advice is, "don't lie about it!"

Being objective and not placing blame are key. Not every job is perfect for every employee, and no one can get along with everybody all the time. Sometimes personalities clash. Sometimes the realities of the job don't match the expectations. The list goes on and on, but more often than not, firings either involve personalities, performance or both. It is essential for the person who was fired to realize that the circumstances that led to it, more often than not, involved at least two points of view. That's where being objective comes into play. Every person who has been fired should take the time to calmly evaluate what actually happened and what his role in it truly was. In other words, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to tell a prospective employer, "It was all their fault. I was a perfect employee every day, and I was an outstanding performer in every aspect of my job. They were totally wrong to fire me!" Even if that were true, who would believe it? Remember the old adages: "It takes two people to have an argument," and "Nobody's perfect."

What Did You Learn?

To minimize the potential damage of being fired, be prepared to explain how you've gained wisdom about yourself and your abilities from the experience.

Once you've had time to take a good long look in the mirror, start thinking about what you could have done differently that might have led to another result and what you'll do differently in the future. If, for instance, it was a matter of personality clash, be prepared to talk about it in first person plural. "We just couldn't work together." That's how you let a prospective employer know you have critically evaluated both sides of the situation. Then, use that as a springboard to highlight the positives that came from the experience. It's critical to take some blame. You might say, "I didn't have a clear understanding of their expectations" as opposed to "they didn't tell me what their expectations were."

Nearly everyone can improve in some area, and that's what you want to stress to a prospective employer. Getting fired isn't the sin -- not learning anything from it is. So, the best advice is to be honest about what happened and explain what you learned from the experience. If you follow that, you'll find most prospective employers will be favorably impressed with you.