Explaining “I was fired” in your next job interview

Getting fired from a job feels like the end of the world. But you’re not the first person to ever be fired and you certainly won’t be the last. Life – and your job search – goes on. When it’s time to apply for other jobs, you’ll need to explain what led to your termination. Keep the following tips in mind when the interviewer asks “so why were you let go from your previous company?”

Take time before job searching to process what happened. Receiving a pink slip is an awful feeling. You’re going to be bitter, sad and angry – three emotions you don’t want to bring to the job interview. Take some time to sort through your feelings and put things in perspective. This was a learning experience. Once you get a handle on your emotions you can begin to articulate that.

Know that you’ll have to talk about being fired in future job interviews. A reference may share what happened or you might make the mistake of talking about it in office conversation once you’re hired. So be prepared during the interview to summarize events that led to being fired. An employer will sense if you aren’t telling the entire story and will keep probing with questions or dismiss your application entirely.

Be honest. The truth will come out sooner or later and it’s best that it comes from you. Don’t add half-truths or leave out information in efforts to make yourself look better. Honesty is always the best policy. This job interview is an opportunity to start fresh. Don’t blow it by lying.

Stick with facts. Tell the story in a straightforward, concise way. Avoid sharing your emotions or perceptions about what happened.

Take ownership for your role in the firing. There are two sides to every story. Presenting yourself as the victim won’t gain sympathy or get you a job offer. How did your actions play a role in what happened? What could you have done differently? After having time to reflect on the situation what have you learned?

Talk about how things will be different. You’re a different person after being fired. You’ll be a different employee. Share with the interviewer how you’ll prevent this situation from happening again. Talk about what you learned about yourself (sharing your strengths and areas of improvement) during the ordeal.

Practice answering the question. Don’t try to wing it. You’ll become flustered and emotional. Rehearse what you plan to say so that you sound thoughtful, objective and confident.