The fact that you were fired isn't the deal breaker, but the way you handle it can make or break your job search

At some point, almost everyone has been let go from a job, whether that was through being fired, laid off, or forced into resigning. It can feel like a gut punch! 

The most important thing you can do at that moment is keep your head. Don't allow your emotions to do the talking. You need to remain professional as you get the news just like you do when you talk about it with future employers. 

It is natural to be concerned about the perception other employers will have when they hear the news that you were fired from a previous role. But, believe it or not, prospective employers don't look as negatively on candidates who have been fired from jobs as they do on candidates who have voluntarily quit jobs. 

Of course, this doesn't mean they look favorably on it either, so you shouldn't approach a resume or job interview without thinking about what to say when you get fired from a job. Seeing as hiring managers typically ask about your reasons for termination at all your previous positions, it's almost certainly going to come up.

In this article, you'll learn how to turn the setback of being fired into a defining moment for your future. There are strategies you need to know to properly address being fired in job applications, on your resume, and in an interview.

It starts with when you're being fired

Having a sit-down with an employer to be told that you're getting fired is a critical time for professionalism. Remember, future employers will be reaching out to past employers to find out about your career history. You don't want to leave a bad taste in the mouths of the folks who are letting you go because that will translate into unfavorable conversations about you in the future. 

When you're given the news that you're being fired, pause before speaking. Take a moment to compose yourself. It doesn't matter if you count to four, take some deep breaths, or ask for a break. Do whatever you can to calm your emotions before you open your mouth. When it's time for you to talk, ask some questions:

  1. Why am I being let go?

  2. Is there something I can do to change your mind?

  3. What was the expectation that I fell short of?

  4. How are you going to relay the news about me being fired to others?

  5. Do you have any recommendations on what I could do better in the future?

The answers to these questions could save your job. At the very least, you'll have some clues as to how to address the firing with future employers.

Take a day or two to compose yourself

Before running off to submit your resume to new jobs, take some time to reflect on what happened. This will help you find areas that you can work on for personal and professional growth. Also, embrace some maturity in acknowledging any mistakes you made. Overcoming challenges is almost always a topic of conversation during an interview. You know the interviewer is likely to ask, “What is your greatest weakness?” Well, here's a perfect place from which to draw an answer.

During this time of reflection and learning, there are several things you can do:

  1. Craft your narrative. Honesty is crucial when talking about being let go from a previous job because background checks are a thing! Address the situation concisely, focusing on achievements and things you've learned that will allow you to turn negatives into positives. 

  2. Start networking. An extremely large number, something like 60%-80%, of new jobs are landed based on who you know. Try to find some references or get some letters of recommendation.

  3. Make a list of your skills. This one bad moment in your career does not, and should not, overshadow all the good. You have skills and strengths. What are they? 

  4. Develop new skills. Perhaps the employer who fired you told you that you lacked a particular skill or set of skills. Don't take that news as a slight to your character. Instead, learn the skills that you need so you'll be able to do better in the future. 

  5. Take care of yourself. Self-care is really important. It's easy to let the negativity of being fired from your job take over and cause unneeded stress. Do some things that bring you joy because this will help you stay positive and motivated during your job search. 

How to handle being fired during the job search

Now that you're in the right frame of mind, it's time to start looking for a new job. Let's talk about how to give the news that you were fired from your previous job to new employers.

What to say when you get fired from a job: on your resume


There is zero reason to mention being fired on your resume. Your resume need only contain the start and end dates for the jobs you've held, without going into details as to why you left your former employer. Just focus on what you did during your time in the positions you held in the past and how your skills and achievements will be useful in your future positions. There is no need to draw attention to having been fired until the hiring manager asks you about it.

What to say when you get fired from a job:  on your job application

Your job application, on the other hand, is going to ask you for a brief description of why you left your job. If you prefer, you can simply write "job ended," "laid off," or "terminated" on your job application. This is recommended since your goal with your application and resume is to get an interview. You have a much better chance of dealing with the issue in person than you do of dealing with it on paper.

Related: Words and Phrases to Remove From Your Resume Right Away

What to say when you get fired from a job: during a job interview

It's during your job interview that you're going to have to face up to having been fired. The hiring manager will probably ask you for specifics about your termination, and, if this happens, you cannot lie about the nature of the termination. You will want to offer an honest explanation – preferably without further prompting – and you will want to keep that explanation succinct and to the point.

If the reason had nothing to do with you (downsizing that resulted in layoffs), then this is a perfect explanation and requires no elaboration. 

Here's what to say about being laid off from a previous job:'

“I was let go from my last position because the company did some restructuring and laid off about 10% of the workforce. It was challenging and disheartening, but it gave me an opportunity to update some of my skills and broaden my knowledge about [insert keyword from the job description to show how you'll be of value to the new company].”

However, if the layoff did have something to do with you personally, then you should make a positive statement. Don't deride your past employer; simply state what you learned and how you benefited from the negative experience and that you intend to turn it into a positive in the future. You should then press on to the next topic immediately unless you are asked further questions. You don't want to put any more emphasis on this question than necessary.

Here's what to say about being fired from a previous job:

"When I was terminated from ABC Corp., I took some advice from the manager and updated my skills with [insert a keyword from the job description that relates to a skill you worked on]. I attended workshops and did some online coursework to ensure that future employers could benefit from my new knowledge."

As long as you keep your answer short and sweet, avoid using the word "fired." Resist dwelling on the negatives, highlight the silver linings, and, most importantly, don't lie. You'll be great.

Remember, being fired is not a deal-breaker

A lot of candidates assume having been fired is a deal-breaker for a hiring manager, but this isn't necessarily the case. Knowing what to say when you get fired is going to have an impact on how the hiring manager perceives you. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has negative experiences. Not everyone can turn them to their benefit, however, and if an employer sees that you can, they will know you are adaptable and positive and will bring those qualities to the new workplace.

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