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How To Answer Interview Questions When You’ve Been Fired

How To Answer Interview Questions When You’ve Been Fired

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If you have ever been fired, potential new employers will wonder why, and be concerned about your future performance. You need an explanation that calms any concerns they may have and make them feel comfortable offering you the job. Have confidence in the fact that if they’re interviewing you, they like you already, and be ready to explain what happened in a positive way.

Related: How To Address Being Fired In A Job Interview

The Big Mistake To Avoid

If you were fired, don’t try to say that you weren’t. Employers do check references, and they will be even more likely to in this case.

Your Overall Strategy

Overall, you want to try and soften the impact of your firing by how you tell the story of what happened. If you can, show that it was caused by a temporary, one-time event that won’t happen again. For instance: “I naturally see the good in people, which caused me to miss some signs that someone on my team was not getting things done and the blowback affected me, too. Now I’ve adopted the motto ‘Trust but verify.’ It actually has made me better at my job because it keeps me very on top of what’s going on in all aspects of a given project or mission.”

If there’s no way to spin it, you can address it head on: “That job was a bad situation that I’m now embarrassed about. It wasn’t a good decision to take that job [insert something like, ‘I did it for the wrong reasons,’ ‘It wasn’t a good fit,’ and son on.] I can only say that it was a brief bump in the road of an otherwise great career. I would love to have you speak to some of my references, including my former employer John Smith (who is going to be your boss from a job you’ve had in the past). They will be able to speak to my qualifications for this job, and my work ethic.”

Offer Evidence Of Your Past Success

Offering evidence of your past success is a great way to overcome this obstacle from your past. One way to do this is to have your references speak on your behalf. Another way is to bring a brag book that highlights your accomplishments. A brag book is a portfolio of performance reviews, awards, complimentary notes, and other things that act like another reference for you.

Focus The Interviewer On The Future

Bring the interviewer’s attention back to the present and the future with a 30-60-90-Day Plan that outlines how you would approach this new job in the first 90 days. This is a powerful way to show that whatever has happened in the past, you’ve put it behind you and are ready to be successful in this new role. It helps them see you working for them and shows them that you absolutely will perform and achieve.

Your Takeaway

When you address a past firing in your interviews, explain it in a way that either takes the focus off of you personally or shows that you learned something from it and you’ll never repeat that mistake.  Then redirect the conversation positively to focus on why you’re there, ready to take on this new job. Use your references as evidence that you are great at your job and not a risk to hire. Bring your brag book and 30/60/90-Day Plan and use them to calm their fears and keep the focus on your future at this new job.

If you do have a difficult situation in your past, like being fired, you may need to spend a few minutes with a coach to help you craft a good, positive explanation. Find out more about interview and job search coaching here: Job Search, Interview, and Career Coaching with Peggy McKee.

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About the author

Career Coach – Peggy McKee is an expert resource and a dedicated advocate for job seekers. Known as the Sales Recruiter from Career Confidential, her years of experience as a nationally-known recruiter for sales and marketing jobs give her a unique perspective and advantage in developing the tools and strategies that help job seekers stand head and shoulders above the competition. Peggy has been named #1 on the list of the Top 25 Most Influential Online Recruiters by HR Examiner, and has been quoted in articles from CNN, CAP TODAY, Yahoo! HotJobs, and the Denver Examiner.


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Peggy McKee Career Coach – Peggy McKee is an expert resource and a dedicated advocate for job seekers. Known as the Sales Recruiter from Career Confidential, her years of experience as a nationally-known recruiter for sales and marketing jobs give her a unique perspective and advantage in developing the tools and strategies that help job seekers stand head and shoulders above the competition. Peggy has been named #1 on the list of the Top 25 Most Influential Online Recruiters by HR Examiner, and has been quoted in articles from CNN, CAP TODAY, Yahoo! HotJobs, and the Denver Examiner.