Ask an Expert: How to Explain Being Fired From a Job

Several AOL readers asked, "What do you say in an interview if you were fired from your last job?"

We turned to the experts who all agree that you should never lie about this in an interview, but there are ways to be better prepared for the question and strategies you can use to create an authentic response.

Ricki Brodie

  • Never lie in an interview. It may be grounds for dismissal if you are hired. You should outline some of the successes you had on the job and explain why you were fired.
  • You need to make sure your body language remains open and positive and that you voice remains calm, not tense, angry, sad or uncomfortable discussing this.
  • Use the least amount of words to explain. Then divert the conversation off this question by asking an opened ended question about the position.

Sharon Good

  • Let the interviewer know your plan for fixing the issue you were fired for.
  • Let them know you're taking responsibility and being proactive, so it won't happen again.

Tom Hannemann

  • If you were fired for not meeting expectations and you believe those expectations were unrealistic, explain why they were unreasonable in a logical and methodical way so the interviewer can see that you are not criticizing the company or boss.

Joe Sullivan

  • Be honest, be brief and move on.
  • Do not bad mouth past employers, but do not absorb the blow either. Hundreds of folks get fired every single day and for a wide variety of reasons.
  • Take pen to paper and write down exactly what happened leading up to the dismissal, then boil down the answer to four to five sentences.
  • Also, if the candidate has had a fairly extensive work history and "getting canned" had never occurred before, demonstrate to the employer that it was just a blip in an otherwise long and successful career.

Billie Sucher

  • When the employer asks the question "Tell me about yourself," address the "issue" upfront and put your cards on the table at the beginning of the conversation. That way, you don't have to worry about being asked the question -- simply take away the question and focus on the future versus dwell on the past.

Bruce W. Clagg

  • Be honest, but don't tell the truth to a fault; a minimum of detail is generally all that is required.
  • In the real world, I believe you'll find it difficult to find a person that was not "fired," "dismissed," "counseled out," etc. sometime during his/her career. Business happens!

Jill Grindle

  • Be open and admit they made a foolish mistake. Then explain what was learned from that error and how it resulted in some positive changes in the person's work habits or ethics, depending on what the person was fired for.

Sherry Mirshahi Totten

  • The candidate should focus more on what they learned from being fired and relate that lesson to the current position they are applying for and to the company they are interviewing with at the time.
  • Possible lessons one might learn from being fired:
  1. I learned that the having the right fit is important for both the candidate and employer and that you must establish this from the start.
  2. I learned that setting expectations from the beginning of a job helps both your boss and yourself stay on the same page.
  3. I learned that having a sense of balance between work and home (or between various projects at work) is critical to doing well on the job.
  4. I learned that it is important to have open lines of communication with your manager.
  5. I learned that it is necessary to set up periodic feedback meetings to make sure that you are performing well.
  6. I learned that corporate changes may sometimes require that some employees may be fired but that this also represents a new opportunity to seek new challenges and to grow.

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