How to Explain a Past Job Termination on a Resume, Application, and Interview
How to Explain Being Fired
There is one question that most job applicants fear when they are filling out a job application or going in for a job interview:
Were you ever terminated from a job and why?
This is a difficult question to answer. The obvious answer is to be truthful about it, but in some cases that can cost you the job you are applying for. So how do you explain a past job termination on an application? Should you divulge why you were fired from a previous job? This article will cover exactly what you should do on you resume, application, and interview. There are different things to do at different steps, so it's best to be prepared for all circumstances.
There's nothing wrong with being fired.— Ted Turner
Have you ever been fired from a job?
My Experience Being Terminated from a Job
I was terminated from a job during my probationary period. In fact, I was just a week shy of passing my probation. When I am asked to explain a past job termination on an application, I always state that, "I was terminated from Pacific Bell (now AT&T) during my probationary period for failing to meet their selling standards."
This is a true statement. I worked at a call center as a customer service representative. People would call in with issues about their phone service and we were expected to sell them products. We didn't have quotas, but we had goals. I had the second highest number of calls in our call center, which a new employee shouldn't have. I should have had just one call per hour, trying to sell all the products I could, multiple times. But I was not a good salesman, so if someone immediately said no, I would finish the call quickly.
So, I was let go. My resume doesn't state why I was fired, but if it's asked on an application, I am straight forward about it. This hasn't prevented me from landing other jobs. I have even earned promotions despite my employer knowing I was terminated from a job.
A Resume Example
Explaining a Past Job Termination on Your Resume
This is an easy one, but I will still outline what should be on your resume when you explain the job you were terminated from. On your resume, you should include:
- The company name.
- Your title.
- The time period you worked there.
- Your job duties.
See how it wasn't mentioned that you were terminated? You should not include that you were terminated from that job on your resume. Your resume showcases the best things about your work history. Stating that you were fired from a job will result in the prospective employer to throw your resume away without giving you a chance.
An Online Job Application
Explaining a Past Job Termination on Your Job Application
There are three ways you can explain why you were fired from a job when filling out your job application:
- Hide the fact that you were fired. Basically, this is lying. If you are caught, you have guaranteed that you won't get the position. With the internet, background services, etc. your prospective employer will find out that you were fired from a job. Even if you get the job, you risk getting fired in the future and jeopardize obtaining other jobs because of this. I do not recommend this.
- Explain in detail why you were fired. While this one can be better than not stating it at all, I wouldn't recommend this one either. Giving away too many details can look bad because when the prospective employer reads the application, they have no way to ask you follow up questions at that time and it may seem like you are trying to find excuses why you were terminated.
- Briefly explain why you were let go. This is the way I go. Explain why you were terminated with brief details. Don't divulge too much information but don't ignore important facts either. Be concise when revealing about your past job termination. This will give your possible future employer a good enough explanation, without having the need to focus on it.
What if you are not asked about a past job termination on a job application?
If your application doesn't ask why you were fired from a job, then don't reveal that information! It's up to the employer to ask that information, so don't feel like you have to be forthcoming with that it. But be prepared to be asked that question during the interview.
How to Avoid Using the Word "Terminated" in a Job Interview
Explaining a Past Job Termination on a Job Interview
If you are fortunate enough to land an interview, here are some tips to remember when explaining why you were terminated from a job:
- Be honest about why you were fired. If your interviewer is asking about it, they will want to know the details. Don't hide anything at this point.
- Don't insert any opinions or feelings as to why you were fired. Don't state, "I feel I was fired because..." or "They didn't like me." Just stick to the facts.
- Don't insult your previous employer. This will only give those interviewing you a bad opinion about you. Don't state, "They were a bad company" or "I was just too good for them". Keep your opinion about your previous employer out of it. If you talk bad about a previous organization, they will wonder if you will talk bad about them if they were to hire you.
- If possible, explain what corrective actions you took and what you learned from being fired. If you went back to school that helped you gain more knowledge, bring that up. If you held another job that was in the same field as the one you were terminated from, then state that. Employers want to hear you learned from the experience. That can be impressive enough to get you the job.
Has being fired from a job ever prevented you from getting another job?
What NOT To Do
I once interviewed a person who was explaining why she was fired from a job. She stated she was late often, so they had to let her go. She stated it was still a problem for her that she was trying to resolve.
This was during a panel interview, and the entire panel voted against her because of this one reason.
What was her mistake? She stated she was still trying to resolve the issue. Instead, she should have stated she had taken steps to fix the problem. Trying to resolve a problem doesn't go far, it sounds like nothing has happened at all. That instantly disqualified her.
Don't make this same mistake!
If you have any tips on explaining a job termination on an application, please share them in the comments below.
Questions & Answers
I was terminated from my job for political reasons. I was pushing for change. I didn't realize that my boss was afraid of looking bad because a change was needed, so she fired me. How do I explain this to future employers, or why I left the company on an application? I haven't worked since leaving that position. I have been asked by the company to return, but I chose not to. Should I share this with prospective employers as well?
I wouldn't use the word "political" if you do discuss your termination. It's a negative word that will make you look bad. What was the official reason you were let go? State that or state you weren't given a reason. However, you were offered to come back, but you choose not to as you felt it wouldn't be the best working environment for you.
I was fired due to "perceived" poor performance, however, never in employment history has this been the case. How do I explain this since I will be applying for the same type of position I was released from?
I was terminated because I missed too many days because of health issues. How do I handle this on an application?
You should state, "I missed work due to a medical issue, which has been resolved." That's assuming it's no longer an issue.
Depending on your location you don't have to state what the condition was unless you wish to (I don't recommend it). But if it's been corrected, you can state it has, and it won't be an issue in the future.
I was terminated officially because of "a change in operations." I was burnt out, did not conceal it, and was frustrated with the state of my career. When I am asked, what does "change in operations" mean, how do I answer?
I was terminated from a primary care medical office due to patient complaints. How do I handle this on a job application?
Without knowing more detail, it's hard to say. But were the complaints true? Did you do something to cause the complaints? Have you resolved those issues?
State what you asked in this question - you were terminated due to patient complaints. However, that doesn't mean you'll lose out on an interview. Some may pass you over, and some may not. You'll have to explain the complaints and what you have done to resolve the issue so it won't happen again.
© 2012 David Livermore