Some of the best career experts out there claim everyone should get fired at least once. There is some truth to this sentiment — while it can feel awful and terrifying, failure is the best way to learn. However, one of the hardest parts of the ordeal is explaining why you were fired to someone who may be your next boss.
Still, there is a way to do it without ruining your chances of ever finding work again. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of people who have been fired find new jobs, so don’t panic if you have to explain why you lost a job. To help you get through the process, tell your potential employer these five things.
1. The truth
First things first — you do not have to reveal you were fired in your application. Your resume should simply contain your achievements and job duties, and your cover letter should explain why you’re a perfect fit for the job. Leave the truth for the interview — by revealing too early, you’ll make it too easy to throw your application into the trash.
Optimally, you will have the opportunity to explain what happened in an interview, so wait until you get called in to discuss it. This is something of a risk should they call your previous employers before they interview you, but this step usually occurs after the interview, at which point a hiring manager will already know.
Also, never lie. Chances are they will find out about the fact you’ve been fired, and lying on an application or during an interview is much, much worse than any problems that come up in your work history.
When discussing how you were fired, be professional. Take emotion out of the discussion. Tell them what happened, but only the most important details. Avoid getting bogged down, but also be forthcoming and clear about it. And remember, you aren’t the first person they’ve interviewed who’s been fired from a position, so there is no need to get nervous.
2. That getting fired was not the end of the world
When discussing a time you were fired, do your best to put the situation in context. In other words, it’s your job to make it seem like it’s not as bad as it sounds.
There are a few ways to do this and they require reading the interviewer correctly. You can attempt the “silly me, I screwed up” posture or you can assume a more earnest perspective. The first one can backfire because it may seem like you aren’t a serious employee, but if it makes sense to play this role, it also makes work history problems seem minor in the face of your positive attitude.
Essentially, you are trying to explain your getting fired as uncomfortable and unfortunate rather than catastrophic. Put the hiring manager at ease by being concise when explaining what happened and not speaking ill of your previous company.
3. It was a learning experience
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is convince a hiring manager getting fired was a learning experience. Show them you learned from the situation by discussing where you made mistakes and emphasize how you have grown by recognizing them.
In being so up front about the situation, an interviewer might ask if you think it was all your fault, or your old boss’s fault, or to what degree concerned parties were responsible. If they do, say you share at least some of the blame and leave it at that. The implication is that it isn’t actually all your fault, but you are willing to take responsibility for your role and want to avoid speaking negatively about your previous employer.
4. It was for the best
Another angle to take, in addition to having learned so much, is that it actually worked out for the better. Talk about why it was time to move on — sometimes negative conditions accrue organically, and while you could have handled things better, your real mistake was not seeing the signs and leaving your old job sooner.
Furthermore, this is a great opportunity to add a little flattery. Be subtle, but talk about how better opportunities seem to be opening up. You can mention you’ve had callbacks from a few other companies, but also mention the best opportunity seems to be with the company at which you are interviewing.
5. A strong reason why it won’t happen again
Finally, convince the interviewer getting fired was a one-time thing. The truth is, a lot of people have been fired and gone on to do wonderful work. It isn’t the end of the world — you’ve learned from your mistakes, and you’re looking forward and up. If the hiring manager sees this, that whole getting fired thing will hardly be an issue.
Bottomline, avoid overthinking things and realize you’re going to make a great addition to another company, even if it’s not this one. Keep your head up and keep trying, and follow the above advice. If you do, you’ll land somewhere great.
Trying to put a short stay at a job behind you? Here’s some advice on how to handle short stays or gaps on your resume — illustrated by the bigwigs fired from the Trump White House.