What to Say When You Got Fired

Being asked why you were terminated from your previous position is probably the most challenging interview question you’ll ever have to face. It’s an uncomfortable topic to discuss under any circumstances, especially when trying to explain it to a prospective employer.

Here are a few pointers to help you get past the sticky issue of being fired and return the focus of your interview to what makes you the best candidate for the job.

Be Honest

You may be tempted to embellish or gloss over the circumstances around your termination. While you need to tailor your response, you must be completely honest in what you say.

  • An employer will find out the truth anyway, via their reference check process.
  • Dishonesty can result in you not getting a job offer, having an existing offer rescinded, or being fired if your deception is discovered later on.

Be Brief

There is no need to give a lengthy explanation or provide too many details about what happened. Simply state the reason for your termination; then try to move the conversation on to another topic.

  • Less is more. If you ramble on or over-explain, you will look sketchy or like you’re trying to hide something.
  • Simply explain what happened and share what you learned as a result. Then, get back to discussing your skills and strengths. You might say something like, “After we lost the account, in part due to my error, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the customer experience and how to ensure that I keep my clients top of mind in everything I do. I believe this will be a tremendous asset in my next role.”

Take the High Road

No matter how tempted you may be or how strongly you feel you were wronged, never bad-mouth a previous employer. You will look defensive and bitter. Instead, focus on the positive and take time to recap the value you can deliver if hired.


You have to walk into your interview with a cool head – and maintain this calmness, even during the toughest questions. Practice will help. Spend whatever time it takes on the front end to prepare for success.

Everyone can improve in some way. This is what you want to stress to your interviewer in explaining your firing. If you are honest about what happened and explain what you learned from the experience, most prospective employers will be favorably impressed.

Interviews can be daunting, even under the best circumstances, but they’re just one part of your successful job search strategy. To help you design and implement that strategy, and access the best jobs in your field in the Central Valley region and beyond, contact the PrideStaff Fresno team today.

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