Ask Dana: How to explain why you were fired

How to Explain Why You Were Fired

I was fired from my prior last job. How do I answer the question, “Why did you leave your last position?”

Advice from Dana:

This question demonstrates that you are preparing for an interview well in advance — most job search candidates don’t take the time to prepare answers for the most commonly asked interview questions.

The key to answering any question that may expose something negative is to balance two important principles:

No. 1: Don’t divulge too much, and don’t phrase things in a negative way.

No. 2: Be truthful!

Don’t deny the fact that you were let go, but you don’t disclose details or share any rationale for your departure, either. Make it short and say it with confidence.

Remember, layoffs happen daily — it’s all about how you frame it in an interview. And you have choices:

  • “The company downsized.”
  • “The company had a reduction in force.”
  • “My department reorganized.”

These explanations admit that you were impacted by a change but don’t share performance issues or the specific reason for your departure.

That said, be sure to avoid saying things like:

  • “I decided to leave to pursue other opportunities.” Nobody leaves a good job — they pursue new opportunities while employed.
  • “My boss and I did not see eye-to-eye.” This statement should throw up red flags in the interviewer’s mind!
  • “I was capped out and bored.” Shame on you — it sounds like you disengaged!

In the other tough interview questions that you prepare for, strive for brevity and clarity. You’re there to show your confidence, self-awareness, preparedness, and passion for the position.

Spend hours preparing well in advance of any interview — there are no shortcuts! My book — Cut the Crap, Get a Job! — has two chapters on interviews and includes a useful interview prep guide.


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