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How to Explain a Past Job Termination in a Resume, Application, or Interview

David has over 15 years of supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge of how to handle personnel issues across many areas.

Even if you've been fired from a previous job, this article will tell you everything you need to know about how to handle the situation in your resume, on job applications, and in your next interviews.

Even if you've been fired from a previous job, this article will tell you everything you need to know about how to handle the situation in your resume, on job applications, and in your next interviews.

A Potentially Awkward Conversation

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? What do you say in an interview when they ask why you left your last job?

This article will cover exactly what you should do on your resume, application, and interview. There are different things to do at different steps, so it's best to be prepared for all circumstances.

Here are some things you'll find in this article:

  • How to explain a past job termination on your resume
  • How to explain a past job termination on your job application
  • How to prepare for your next interview if you've been fired from a previous job
  • How to explain a past job termination during a job interview
  • What not to do in a job interview
  • My experience dealing with this exact issue
Just because you were fired from a job doesn't mean you should put it on your resume.

Just because you were fired from a job doesn't mean you should put it on your resume.

How to Explain 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:

  • Company name
  • Your title
  • Your job duties
  • When you worked there

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 likely result in the prospective employer throwing your resume away without giving you a chance.

There is no need to explain why you were terminated on your resume.  People have gaps in their work history for a variety of reasons.

There is no need to explain why you were terminated on your resume. People have gaps in their work history for a variety of reasons.

How to Explain 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 (if they ask for a reason):

  1. Option 1: 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 most likely 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 option.
  2. Option 2: 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. When the prospective employer reads the application, they have no way to ask you follow-up questions at that time. It may seem like you are trying to find excuses for why you were terminated.
  3. Option 3: 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 information about your past job termination. This will give your possible future employer a good enough explanation without having the need to focus on it.

Note: If you're concerned about how you should word your response to "reason for leaving," you can go with the trusty phrase: "involuntary termination."

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 for that information, so don't feel like you have to be forthcoming with that. But be prepared to be asked that question during the interview.

An online application that asks the prospective employee if they have ever been terminated from a job.

An online application that asks the prospective employee if they have ever been terminated from a job.

How to Prepare for Your Next Interview If You've Been Fired From a Previous Job

If you've been fired for any reason from a previous job, it's probably best to prepare for questions about it from prospective employers. Here's what you need to do before you head to your next interview:

Check your state's labor laws.

A common question that job hunters often want to know is: "What can employers say about former employees?" Though there no are no federal laws dictating what employers can or cannot say about former employees, there are indeed various laws at the state level that do. Since they vary depending on where you live, however, it's worth checking out some of the specific labor laws in your state to be sure of what employers can and cannot disclose about their former employees.

Depending on which state you live in, an employer can disclose information, not just about your job title, salary, and when you worked there, but also potentially about your responsibilities, performance, professional conduct, and the reasons why you were fired.

Know your former company's policies about disclosing information.

Though most companies are fairly cautious about what information they share about former employees due to fears of potential lawsuits, it's still important to know the general policies of your former employer.

If possible, try to contact your former boss and HR department to see if they'll let you know how the company will represent your termination. You can even try to negotiate with them to lessen the number of details they share. (Even if you left under difficult circumstances, you could still ask a former coworker that you were on good terms with to call the company in an effort to check your references.) This is important for aligning both their version of the separation and yours so as to avoid any potential conflict between both parties and ensure that you don't accidentally lie during a later interview with a new company.

As an added bonus, if you're lucky enough to find out that they do not intend to disclose that you were fired or the reasons why then you can prevent yourself from accidentally oversharing any potentially harmful information in any future interviews.

Make sure you've processed your termination.

This is a much more difficult preparation to pin down, but it is very important nonetheless. Not unlike moving on from a previous romantic relationship, it's crucial that you go through the whole course of processing your thoughts and emotions from your previous termination before talking to any prospective employers face-to-face. You don't want to drag a bunch of baggage into an interview. It can be a real turn-off for interviewers and possibly even prevent you from getting the position.

Of course, if you're low on funds and need an income again immediately, your available window for this processing might be fairly small. But you should nevertheless try to sort through how you feel about the whole matter beforehand, lest you sabotage any future prospects with unaddressed bitterness.

Practice your responses beforehand.

You want to come off as composed and fair in your interview. So it's best to plan and practice what you might say beforehand. If you leave too much room for improvisation—especially on matters of where you used to work—you really leave yourself open to becoming overly emotional and dismissive of previous employers.

Interviews can often feel like a lot of pressure is placed on you—especially if you've been fired from a previous job—but if you practice beforehand and be honest about your work history, you might surprise yourself with how well you do.

Interviews can often feel like a lot of pressure is placed on you—especially if you've been fired from a previous job—but if you practice beforehand and be honest about your work history, you might surprise yourself with how well you do.

How to Explain a Past Job Termination During 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 but brief 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. You want to come off as truthful and trustworthy—admitting what happened while still providing unbiased context to the situation. There's a very real chance that they might find out the truth anyway, and if you get caught in a lie, you're pretty much guaranteed not to get the job.

At the same time, however, you don't necessarily need to go all out describing every last unsavory detail of your previous employment history. If you keep it truthful but brief, you'll not only avoid the pitfalls of trying to get away with a lie but can also appear emotionally healthy by being honest about—but not obsessed with—your past. Additionally, being transparent about your work history will help end that line of questioning earlier, whereas being cagey and suspicious will only prolong it further.

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. Inserting too many opinions may come off as you trying to spin or distort the facts, which doesn't reflect well on you.

Don't insult or blame 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.

You want to convey self-awareness, personal growth, and self-reflexivity. 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.

Pivot back to why you're a great fit for the position.

After you're done explaining elements of your work history, you can pivot the interview back to the present and why you'd be great for the job you're applying for. There's no need to be pushy about it, as that might come off as a bit suspicious. But conveying that you're less interested in your past endeavors and more so excited about the potential opportunities that may be presented to you at this position can really help you seem like an eager, enthusiastic candidate.

An Example of What Not to Do in an Interview

I once interviewed a person who was explaining why she was fired from a job. She stated she was often late, 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!

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, "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 straightforward about it. This hasn't prevented me from landing other jobs. I have even earned promotions despite my employer knowing that I was terminated from a job.

Works Cited

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: A corporate representative smelled alcohol on my breath and reported me. I was fired later that week. How do I disclose this on job applications and interviews?

Answer: Were you drinking? Did you have alcohol on your breath? You need to own up to it and say it won't happen again. If you have a substance use issue, I encourage you to seek help so it would prevent this from happening again.

Question: I was terminated due to misuse of the company's computer (i.e. checking my email and reading non-work related articles on company time), and I had multiple warnings. How do I address this in an interview?

Answer: Do you plan to do it again at any other job? If you don't plan to do it again, then say so. State what you learned from the experience.

Question: I was fired for selling lotto to my coworker a week before his 18th birthday. It was the stupidest mistake I have made and I plan to never make a similar mistake again. How do I explain that without runing my chances of employment?

Answer: Being honest is your best opportunity to do so. Explain the event and that you realized it was a mistake and won't do it again. If you are going in the same field of work, that will be harder, as places may assume you'll sell alcohol to minors as well. So be prepared to look at the larger picture when explaining everything.

Question: 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?

Answer: Instead of focusing or blaming others, even if that's the case, focus on what you have done to improve. State you learned why you were terminated and made efforts to rectify the situation so it won't happen again.

If you throw blame to what others saw in you, even if it's correct, you won't be hired because any employer will think you don't own up to your actions.

Question: I was apparently fired for non-compliance to procedures. How would I explain this on an application and an interview for a new job?

Answer: Honestly without more details it's hard to say. State you were terminated due to failure to comply with procedure, and in any future job you would ensure it won't happen again.

Question: I was terminated for not ordering enough products into my grocery stores. This happened twice in four months. One verbal warning, one written warning, then termination. How do I handle this in an interview?

Answer: Well, what did you learn from that experience? Did you learn how much to order, when to ask about it when you are unsure, etc.? That's what is important. Admit to what happened, that you failed to order enough products, but then explain you learned how to handle it in the future. How to adjust, when to ask for clarification, etc.

Question: I was fired for not following the rules, as I did not clean up after myself. How do I explain why I left the company to a new employer during an interview?

Answer: You simply state you failed to follow procedure. Then, in a job interview, state that you did not clean up appropriately. You understand and accept why you were let go, and will ensure it won't happen again in the future.

Question: I was terminated due to lies by my manager, she and I were the only females and it seemed like she had it in for me since she came, on my termination statement she stated that I did not follow protocol but I know I did and she gave other blunt lies but everyone believed her, how do I explain that in an interview?

Answer: First off you won't state any of that. State you had disagreements with your previous supervisor, and while you didn't want to be fired, you felt like it was a good outcome because it allowed you to move on.

Question: Which do you think would be seen in the most ‘positive’ light when asked on an application the reason for leaving my last role - ‘termination’ or ‘group dismissal’? I was one of 3 people fired for theft as they could not identify the perpetrator.

Answer: Either way, you'll have to explain yourself in the interview. Group dismissal is technically correct, but it's vague. If I saw that, I would question what it was. Were you laid off? Why was it a group dismissal? It leaves too many open-ended questions.

You can state termination for violating policy, which is technically correct since theft is against all employer's policy. Then in the interview, you can indicate that you and two others were terminated due to possible theft. You can say you did not steal anything, but you can't prove it either way. It's up to the interviewer to determine what is right and what isn't.

Question: I was terminated for unprofessional behavior and dishonesty. How could I explain the reasons I was fired to an employer if they were untrue?

Answer: It's your word against theirs, which you will probably lose. There isn't much you can do except try to explain the termination without putting your employer in a negative light.

Question: I was fired because of a drug test. What can I say when a new job asks why I left my old job?

Answer: Here is the issue - if you were fired for that, you were taking a substance which made your test dirty.

There isn't much you can say except for the truth. You can state you were terminated due to a drug test, but you have resolved the issue and have no problems being tested again or randomly.

However, if you are still taking drugs, that's on you. There is nothing you can do about that.

Question: I didn't add a job to my resume because it is irrelevant to the position I'm applying for, plus it was from eleven years ago. I was fired from that job for being short on a register. Should I tell them about it?

Answer: That depends. Does it look like you have a gap of employment in your work history? Then yes, you should. Otherwise, it will look like you are covering it up.

However, if it doesn't appear as if there is a gap in your work history and they don't ask about it, you don't have to give up those details. You risk them finding out later, but, it's on them to inquire about your work history.

Question: I was terminated after three weeks on my first remote job during my trial period due to lack of competency. It’s a 3 month contract and any violation will result in instant dismissal. Then, wages are paid monthly and are paid 4 weeks in arrears of my last payday. It has been a week since I was terminated and didn’t receive a notice via email regarding payment on days I’ve worked. Will I still get paid for those working days prior my termination? What should I do?

Answer: Depends what's in the contract. If it says you only get paid after four working weeks, you may be out of luck. If not, then you may be entitled to pay. But it's all in the contract. Even if it isn't clear, I doubt there is much to do and it may cost you more money to deal with it than it's worth.

But, I am not an expert in that area.

Question: I was terminated for ethics violation, if my employer asks about that, obviously I would tell the truth, but how would I go about it?

Answer: Without more details it's hard to say. You can state you had an ethics violation, but you learned from the mistake and won't do it again in the future.

Question: RN at the same position and facility for twenty-five-years. Terminated for inadvertently taking medicine home with me, (non-narcotic or controlled). I understand stating “violation of policy” as a reason, anything else I should do?

Answer: Nope, I think that's good enough. But you'll need to justify it in an interview and state how you will ensure it won't happen again.

Question: I was terminated due to symptoms (fatigue) from a medical condition. The condition hasn’t been diagnosed, but I have had issues with it in the past. What should I stare on applications when asked?

Answer: You're not required to share medical conditions, but you can do so voluntarily. I recommend you see a doctor about it so you can say the issue has been addressed.

Question: I was let go from my part-time job for calling in sick. I didn't feel comfortable serving food with a sinus infection and was also unable to get out of bed that day whatsoever. How do I explain this situation in my interview this weekend?

Answer: I would explain it just like that. You called in sick because you felt you were contagious.

Question: 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?

Answer: You simply state it as that. That the business took things in a different direction and your position was no longer needed.

You don't need to mention the rest. A lot of people express burn out and frustration with their career. If anything, in the interview you can state you felt it was a positive change for you as it allowed you to explore other aspects of your career.

Question: I was terminated because I missed too many days because of health issues. How do I handle this on an application?

Answer: 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.

Question: I was terminated because my performance was dipping as I went through some personal problems. I have been seeing a psychologist to become better. Is this okay?

Answer: Well of course it's okay, but don't feel you have to tell that to possible employers - you typically don't. You can state you were let go due to some personal problems, which you have resolved. That's it.

Now some jobs, through rarely, may legally be allowed to ask about this, such as jobs in law enforcement or government. So keep that in mind.

Question: I was a teacher, and was terminated. The exact reasoning wasn't given, but the program of my classroom was changed. I agreed to the changes, but wasn't successful. I am now looking for a career change, but had to use my former supervisor as a reference. It is unclear what my former supervisor will say, and even though I don't feel that the level of support I was provided was not enough to be successful, I don't want to speak negatively of them. What should I say to potential employers?

Answer: What you said just now, except that you weren't given enough support to be successful. State there was a change in the program and that it wasn't successful, so you were let go. You were glad since you wanted a career change, and know you will be more successful in the future in your new career path.

Question: I am currently employed, but seeking a part-time job. I was terminated from a former employer of ten years due to suspected fraud, billing for five clients seen that the company was not able to substantiate nor did they give me the opportunity to do so. How do I explain this on the application that asks for an explanation and during an interview?

Answer: First, don't state the company didn't give you a chance to explain. State what happened, and what actions you did that may have made the situation seem like fraud. On the application brief, but in the interview, you can give full details. State what you would do in that situation in the future.

Question: I was terminated for HIPAA violations that the employer never proved I did. How do I explain my termination in a job application?

Answer: State that's why you were terminated, then explain it in an interview without blaming your last employer. State you take HIPAA very seriously and will take all steps never to commit a HIPAA violation.

Question: I was released from my last job for violating safety policy twice in a calendar year. Both incidents were stupid on my part as I have been operating powered industrial equipment for the past 22+ years in various positions between two employers. Both situations were due to a lapse of judgment in distance between myself (while operating equipment) and a fixed object. Could you please help in the wording of my past issues with safety policy?

Answer: Well, you have the perfect wording right there really. You had a lapse in judgment and will ensure it won't happen again in the future.

Question: Is this good? The Company and I parted ways due to a difference in personality standards, it appeared as though they wanted a worker who was less outgoing than me. The clients all wanted to talk to me because I am friendly with everyone and (the company) did not want my friendliness to become a liability. I have remained positive and friendly with everyone at my current position but have learned when to remain serious and focused and when to provide service with a smile.

Answer: It's okay, but you are passively placing blame on the organization you were with, especially that "wanted a worker who was less outgoing than me". You can state there was a difference in how customer approach was handled. While you were more casual and friendly, it wasn't as serious as the organization wanted.

Question: What would be the best way to explain being terminated due to personal issues that arose from a 3+ year relationship with a manager in a different department?

Answer: Well, don't bad mouth that manager, just discus you two have difficulties working together and that even though you didn't like being fired, you felt like you could move on to something different.

Question: I was fired during my probationary period for not completing my training by a set date. I was still doing the original job I was hired on for, plus training for the new position they were promoting me to. Also, my main trainer went on vacation in the middle of my training, and the other trainer (director) didn't train me because she was really busy. I was told by HR that I had a great working record and that I was being put down as desirable for the company. How can I make that sound more positive?

Answer: Just state that you didn't complete your training on time due to many outside factors in the organization, but then state that you will ensure it won't happen again for any new job. If they ask what those factors are, tell them, but don't place blame anywhere.

Question: I was fired for being late, what should I say when someone asks me on an application?

Answer: State you were terminated due to tardiness. But, have you resolved the issue? If so, state afterwards you have resolved the tardiness issue.

Question: What do I say if I was fired because of conflict I had with my boss?

Answer: Just that, but be prepared to explain in more detail.

Question: Myself and coworker were fired for HIPAA violation that never took place. How do I explain this in interviews?

Answer: The problem is that you can't state they didn't take place. Even if you're right, it would look bad for you to say and would seem like you are deflecting. Instead, state you were terminated due to a HIPAA violation, but that you learned from that and will ensure you follow HIPAA regulations strictly in the future.

Question: I was terminated from my job for too many missed punches on the time clock and attendance. The attendance was due to my kids being sick and I have no help from family to help when that situation occurs. I have resolved the issues but I am having trouble explaining it on an application for the same company. They will be speaking to my previous manager and I know she will say good things about my work but attendance will be a big topic. How can I keep it short but positive?

Answer: Just like that - you had attendance issues due to personal problems, but they have now been rectified.

Question: I was told I fell asleep in a 6 1/2 hour meeting. My eyelids where heavy but I couldn’t leave the meeting. How do I handle this?

Answer: Ouch, that's a long meeting.

First off, you can fall asleep without realizing it, even for a brief moment. On your application you can state you were terminated due to improper protocols during a meeting. Then you can explain yourself in an interview. You can state the meeting was six and a half hours and you became tired. You regret it and know how to properly prepare yourself for any future long meetings, ensure to get enough sleep, etc.

Taking an active role in meetings like that is good as well!

Question: I was terminated for misuse of a gas card at a police department. I wasn’t the only using the gas card, however higher administration was being investigated with gas and take home vehicles so I was the only one made of an example of. How do I tell a new police department of this termination? I currently work for a sheriffs department with full access to gas again and have never made the same mistake.

Answer: Then state that. State you never did it again and acknowledge it was wrong for you to do so.

Question: I was fired from a fast food restaurant due to "stealing product and inappropriate customer service". That is how it was written up. It was over fifteen years ago. I was young and immature. How do I word this, as it doesn't paint a good picture?

Answer: The good thing is that it was a long time ago. It should impact your work history very little. However, you can state it exactly as that. Then in any job interview that you were immature and you own up to what happened. You learned from it and plan to do nothing like that ever again.

Question: I got let go with one week of probation left from my first job since school. Checked in with superiors who said I was doing well. Management said to be careful of tone and body language but gave a card for excellent patient care. I was told just not the right fit. How should I answer questions about this job?

Answer: Exactly that. You were let go during probation being advised you were not the right fit for the organization. It's better to be let go during probation than after probation. If you have to talk about it in an interview, you can state you were advised to watch your tone and body language (a problem I had, actually), and that you worked on it and won't have that problem in the future.

Question: I was terminated due to addiction. I was repeatedly let go and hired back, as he loved my work and was wanting to work with me. However, things got to the point where he couldn't take the risk anymore. Since losing the job, I have successfully completed rehab, and currently, have nine months of clean living. How much should I disclose if asked? Are personal issues specific enough or is it too vague? Also, can I get away with saying it was a mutual decision?

Answer: Your addiction is a medical condition, which you don't necessarily have to disclose. Now if you had arrests, convictions, etc., they may put two and two together. However, you can state you had a medical condition which caused you to lose your job, but, you have rectified that condition, and it will no longer be an issue.

Question: In my past job, I was terminated for falsifying records. Occasionally, I would manually change my employee's lunch punches to reflect that they had only taken a 30-minute lunch when in fact, sometimes they had taken a longer lunch. What do I say when someone asks me why I was terminated?

Answer: There isn't much more you can say except that. But you need to explain why you did it. Do you feel you were wrong to do it? Explain why. Did you learn not to do it again? Say that. You need to demonstrate you won't do it again.

Question: When I was released from my job, I had to sign a confidentiality agreement to obtain severance pay. What can I say about my last job to an interviewer?

Answer: I assume your company had you sign a confidentiality agreement so that you wouldn't release trade secrets. You can still state why you were let go, what your job duties were, etc., but you have to be general when you say it. If you were let go due to policy violations, state that but don't give specifics that would allude to a practice. Or, if talking about your job duties, use general terms used in your industry.

Don't use that confidentiality agreement to fall back on so you don't have to answer any questions. Do you have a copy of it? If so, you may want to have it handy so you know what you can and can't say.

Question: I was terminated from my job for taking to many days off due to medical issues. They have since been resolved, but since I have not been at my job for a year they fired me. Is there a way of wording my situation better, when I fill out applications and during interviews?

Answer: State it just like that. You had some medical issues that required you to take time off, and you were let go because of it. But the issues are now resolved.

Question: I lost my job after nearly eight years without any issues in performance and increased responsibilities. I dozed off at the computer several times or at a couple of meetings without being aware of it until told later. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. How do I answer an application or reply in an interview when asked why I left my previous employer?

Answer: If you want, you can state you had a medical condition which affected your work which has since been diagnosed (and hopefully treated). You can then state it won't be an issue for any future jobs you hold.

Question: During employment within my probationary period, I was suspended pending investigation due to an allegation that I had verbal confrontations with ALL of my immediate co-workers and had posed as a threat to workplace personnel. When I asked who were the co-workers that alleged such claims the subject was dropped and dismissed without any further discussion. It was then stated 10 days later that I terminated for poor work performance. How do I explain my termination on a resume?

Answer: You're on probation and can be terminated for basically any reason. That's the reason you give, poor work performance. Don't bring up the other issue otherwise, it won't make you look good.

Question: I was terminated from my job because of customer complaints. I have researched online tips for providing good customer service. Do you think this will work as an explanation for why I was fired during an interview?

Answer: State you have made personal efforts to improve your customer services skills.

Question: I was terminated at a family owned business. The workplace was a hostile work environment. In addition, I was told my employment was ending at various times before this due to the impending closing of the business. Then I was told I was staying on. Wash, rinse, repeat. I was given the freedom to make my own schedule, including hours worked. Protocol became where the owner requested that I give her my hours over the phone. The owner then accused me of not coming in, and not submitting a timecard. How do I explain this at an interview?

Answer: State you were terminated due to being told you followed improper procedure in submitting your timecard and in scheduling. Then go into detail about you were allowed a flexible schedule. Lastly, state in the future you would get clear guidelines on your schedule so it won't happen again.

Question: I got fired from my orderly job for stealing food. How do I explain that on an application?

Answer: Just like that. But state it won't happen again.

Question: What should I put on an application for being terminated for “not getting enough sign ups” for their store card?

Answer: That you didn't meet a directed quota.

Question: I quit my last job due to deplorable health, food, and safety violation. How do I explain this without bad mouthing my prior employer? I thought I would say that I was professionally trained in food and safety for many years and they were not operating by the standards I expected.

Answer: Well, since you quit you don't really have to give any details. You can simply state you quit due to wanting to find a different career path and wanted the freedom in doing so, that it was a difficult choice, but you felt it was the right thing to do. You don't want to bad mouth them, and if it comes up, just state the working conditions were not ideal, and you felt it was best you found a different career path.

Question: I was fired when I called in sick. How should I state that when potential employers ask?

Answer: Why did you call in sick? Do you expect it to happen again? That's what you have to address. You should say, "I missed work due to a medical issue, which has been resolved." This explains that 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.

Question: I was terminated for not showing up for work. My friend's dad needed my car to work overnight and didn't return it. How do I explain this?

Answer: Why couldn't you find another way to work, like the bus or walking?

You can state it was a transportation issue. Have you resolved it now? During a job interview, tell the interviewer that it's no longer an issue.

If you still don't have stable transportation, you need to figure out how you will get to work before you go on any job interviews.

Question: I was terminated with the explanation that "the company is going in a different direction." I was not the only one to be terminated that day. They have since hired someone in my same position. I was there for 7+ years, always got a great review, salary increases, and bonuses. How do I explain the reason why I was let go to potential employers?

Answer: You have your reason right there--the company was going in a different direction. Don't state the rest of it how someone else was hired for your position, no one else was let go, etc. They don't need to know that, and it's not relevant.

Companies go in different directions all the time, even if it's just with one employee. The reason should be sufficient. If you have copies of your recent reviews, you can demonstrate that you did work well with the company until they decided to go a different direction.

Question: 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?

Answer: 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.

© 2012 David Livermore


David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on September 02, 2020:

First off, I'm sorry to hear that happened to you.

I've never dealt with this situation when conducting interviews. So what was the reason why you were terminated? Because that is the one your previous employer would give to your future employers. It's unfortunate, but if you say you were terminated for retaliation, it's your word against theirs, which won't work out well for you.

You could be honest and state you were terminated after reporting a sexual harassment incident, and the reason you were given was (fill int he reason here). Most employers will infer that you are implying you were terminated in retaliation. Good employers will understand that and not hold that against you.

Have you tried contacting your previous employer's HR for a reference letter or information regarding your termination? Do you have evaluations you can provide during interviews showing you were a good employee? Those may also help strengthen your interviews.

Lastly, and I am no lawyer, but there are laws against terminating someone due to reporting sexual harassment. You could talk to an attorney to see if your rights were violated and what resolution you may have.

Good luck.

Eadie Bye on September 02, 2020:

I was recently fired in retaliation for reporting Sexual Harassment against my supervisor. How do I explain this situation to a potential employer?

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on August 28, 2020:

Just like that. You were terminated, with no reason. When you were asked, you were told it's not working out. Keeping a copy of the text message (via screenshot or just not deleting it), can be worth doing as well just in case any prospective employers want an explanation.

My other recommendation is you go visit your employer in person to find out why. Try to talk to HR, another manager, or someone higher up. However, if it's an at will organization, then they can fire you and not tell you why.

Krissy Marie on August 27, 2020:

I was fired one hour before my shift should have started via text message, but without any notice or explanation. When I asked my manager for the reason of my termination, all she replied with was "it's just not working out." How do I explain this?

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on August 23, 2020:

If you are in an at-will state, your former boss is correct, they don't have to give a reason. They should so you know why, but they aren't required to. You should verify if your state/city is at-will, as your employer could be lying.

First, I recommend a cooling off period of about a week. Then call your former boss up and ask for a reference letter. See if he will give you one. If he refuses, then ask again why you were terminated, as you want to know why so you can resolve any issues you had with future employers. Be polite about all of this, no matter how rude your former employer may be.

If you are denied for unemployment, then you may find out why there. Typically they have to give a reason if it's denied, so this could be your clue to find out why.

If you still don't find out, then you do need to go into job interviews blind. You can state you weren't given a reason, since you live in an at-will state. You attempted to find out with your employer, and then explain what happened after that.

If you can, try to think of anything that has happened that may have caused it. Did your employer want someone else in your position? Was work truly slow enough to terminate you? You could be asked why you think you were terminated in an interview, so you may have to come up with something.

Martin on August 22, 2020:

I was recently terminated from my job. I asked the boss for a reason and an explanation and he told me "I don't have to give you one." I live in an "at-will" state. I had been at that job for 10 years and was always a high performer and highly trusted. This came as a shock to me and my coworkers. I wasn't given a warning or a write up or anything to let me know what I had done wrong. Work is slow but he didn't say it was a lay off, he said he was terminating me. I fear this will ruin my chances to get another job. I'm also concerned that if I need unemployment I will be denied because I don't know the specific reasons why I was let go. I don't know how to answer if this was a lay off or termination or how to explain the termination. How do I approach this in an interview and an unemployment application considering it's highly likely they will call my previous employer?

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 15, 2020:

The problem is that you refused a drug test, which looks like you refused because the test may be dirty. You could put on an application that you refused a drug test due to the procedure involved, then describe in an interview why you felt uncomfortable with it. State you will do a drug test, but you don't want to feel violated in the process. It may also help to look up how drug tests are done so you know. Some places may require you to do that and you may have no choice but to do it.

J on June 15, 2020:

I was terminated from my job for a random drug test took the drug test but the young lady said temperature strip was not registering ahe poured the sample into another kit same thing happened. So she said i would have to do it again. I agreed while drinking more water she came to me and said that someone will accompany me to the restroom and i would have to pull my shirt up and dropped my pants below my waist and do a 90 degree turn and then proceed to give the sample.I informed her i was not comfortable with that and was told if i don't comply it was a refusal. How can i explain that please.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 02, 2020:

That's the explanation, but you need to follow-up with why you learned you shouldn't have done that, what you learned from it, etc. The situation, while important, isn't as important as what you will do to rectify the situation in the future.

markoas on June 02, 2020:

Thanks again for the information. With regards to your "Option 3: Briefly explain why you were let go.", would this response fit your Option 3?

Summary for involuntary termination: I viewed a co-worker’s electronic medical record on a day I was not scheduled to work.

Situation: I was making out the work schedule that weekend and learned that co-worker was very sick. I viewed this coworker’s electronic medical record so that I could get a sense of the severity and thus determine how I would schedule for the following weeks.

Thanks in advance.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 01, 2020:

Assume everything will be reported to be safe in any situation, even if they are not supposed to report out on it. It will allow you to be prepared.

markoas on June 01, 2020:

Thanks for the information. It is interesting that I never heard anything from outside of the institution; if my violation was enough to have me dismissed, then is HR obligated to report it further? It was over 6 years ago. Just curious. Anyway, the whole situation still bothers me as I apply to find another job as I want to relocate. Now I get to worry about the fact that I turn 64 this month and that whole age stuff! Thanks again.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on May 29, 2020:

To answer your first question - You need to describe the HIPAA situation. Get into the facts of the case. Why did you commit the violation? What mistakes were made? In an interview, you then need explain it again, why it happened, and what you will do to prevent it in the future.

As far as your second question - I would be surprised if there is a filter in place like that. A lot of people have been dismissed from a job. I've interviewed applicants that have been dismissed who have applied through an automated system. Are there systems capable of it? Sure, but I haven't heard of it being widely used. I wouldn't worry about it.

markoas on May 29, 2020:

I have read previous posts on stating on an application "involuntary separation" as the "reason for leaving" on each of previous employment descriptions. The application further asks (required field on application) "Were you ever dismissed or discharged from any employment for reasons other than lack of work or funds? If yes, please describe."

The reason was a HIPAA violation on my part, though as far as I know only dealt within the facility where I worked as I never heard anything from outside. I have been employed at 2 separate healthcare facilities that I made aware of prior to being hired at those two places.

My questions are this:

1. What is the best way to "please describe" as noted above.

2. Do online application programs (such as developed by Healthcare Source) or other software lend themselves to automatically exclude an applicant because those above mentioned terms (involuntary separation, etc.) are picked up on the software's review of the information that is on the application. Your thoughts.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on May 29, 2020:

I'll answer your second question first, since it affects the first question.

Honestly, I don't have an answer regarding how you should handle the resignation. If they can fire you without cause, then there is nothing you can do. If they have to have cause, you can fight it or try to go to court. If you fight it, you could end up being miserable there as they will make your life hell. You could sue, but that could take a long time and you may end up losing. However, since the job market has tanked, who knows how long it will be before you get another job. Based on the brief details you provided, I would resign since you may not like working there. You could also ask for a transfer to another department if that's possible.

Now, if you do resign, you can simply state on applications you resigned to pursue other job opportunities. This is true. However, if any prospective employer asks, they may find out about the issue between you and your former supervisor. You can state that there were difficulties between you and your supervisor, so it was best to move in in the best interest of the organization. This makes you look good, as you put the organization ahead of yourself.

Good luck.

SalehNagi on May 28, 2020:

Hello dear,

I was requested by HR manager and General manager to resign, they both told me in the meeting that my work history with the organisation is very clean and I have no single warning in my 10 years of employment. However, they told me that they have noticed there is no cooperation between me and my direct supervisor and they see that I don't support my supervisor enough. Because they see my position is important and my supervisor is important as well and there is no room for mistakes... They decided to get rid of me and requested me to resign and they offered my 6 months salary + 1 salary for advance notice + all other rights because they know it is wrongful dismissal and may to avoid me going to court and claim compensation.

I have been working for 10 years and my supervisor have just arrived in Feb 2020. She is 3 years with the company only. However, the HR manager and general manager sided her.

How should I answer the question in a job application when they ask why did I leave my previous job?

For sure I will need to put at least the HR manager in my references and she will be contacted by the other employer.

I still did not send my official resignation and I'm not planning to raise a claim against my employer, even though the law is in my side.

What should I do best for my career and find another job because I have the qualifications, experience, very good performance appraisals from previous managers.

Please advice me how to answer the question why did I leave my previous job and second what should I do with my employer before I sign the resignation to secure myself

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 16, 2020:

I'm so sorry to hear that. It doesn't sound like your request was unreasonable at all. That being said, you can state that you requested accommodations due to a disability and your employer had concerns about that. Then you were terminated with the reason given of performance issues. Let the employer draw the conclusions in this case.

Now, it is during the probationary period, so it's not all bad. You can keep it simple - your employer let you go because it wasn't working out, and you can say you agreed with that. I doubt you would want to work in an environment like that.

You can stick to the truth and give the details, or you can generalize. You aren't bad mouthing your past employer if you recite the events leading up to your dismissal.

Heather Watkins on January 15, 2020:

I was terminated 1 day shy of my 90 day probationary period due to requesting reasonable accommodations for my disability. My employer stated that even though I notified them I had a spinal disability prior to getting hired they didn't realize I would need accommodation and that it was too much trouble (even though I offered to pay for a new chair completely out of my own pocket). On my termination paperwork my employer listed that it was due to performance, however I have thorough documentation that shows that was never an issue. There has already been a charge filed with the EEOC and they said it would be roughly a year before it gets resolved, so it is still in legal limbo. In the meantime, while looking for other employment, I am unsure how to list the reason for leaving my last job when that question is specifically asked. Obviously I want to be straightforward and although I am always transparent in the fact that I am extremely intelligent and capable despite having a disability, I don't want to talk poorly about my former employer. How would you word this?

Farrah Young from Lagos, Nigeria on November 07, 2019:

I was asked this question recently and I took the easy way out by lying (I'm not proud of it, but being truthful would likely have cost me the position).

Your tip of "Involuntary termination" is also a good one and I'll this from now on.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on October 01, 2019:

Sorry to hear that. It sounds cut and dry. Just explain what happened in any future interviews and that you learned from your mistakes.

RFIS2019 on October 01, 2019:

I had an HR incident with a former employee. I was giving a one final warning. Later in the year I had an expense report issue which I informed my boss of prior to submitting and was told to submit. I was then terminated for violating policy

unemployed on July 31, 2019:

i worked for company and if you didnt have time they would couach you for and you only get so many anways i went to get mediciene one day before the work shift and i ride the bus and if they give your shift out they write you up if you dont have time

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on July 06, 2019:

If it's against company policy to use marijuana, you can simply state that you violated company policy. But then you would need to explain yourself in any interviews.

If it's illegal in your area, well, that's on you. If it's legal then that's fine, but if it's against the company policy, that again is on you. You need to determine if using marijuana is worth the possibility of losing a future job.

It would be awkward to ask that in an interview, unless the subject of your termination came up.

Unemployed Lemon on July 05, 2019:

I was recently (see: 3 days ago) terminated from the best job I've ever had after somebody smelled evidence of my recreational use of marijuana on my clothes/hair. I was informed of the accusation, and was given two options: be immediately transported to a nearby clinic for testing to dispute the claims, or refuse testing and leave the building immediately.

While I have NEVER been under the influence at work ( as in, I've never smoked before work or during breaks), there isn't any way that I would have been able to pass the test, simply based on the half-life (and the substance itself-- marijuana is not legal in my state aside from medically). So, I made the decision to refuse testing. In the moment (I was verging on a panic attack for most of the meeting, so elaborately rational thought wasn't necessarily forthcoming), I thought it was better to be terminated for suspicion than terminated for verified use.

But... now that I'm completing upwards of 20 applications a day, I'm starting to dread the section that demands to know "Reason for Leaving". Please help!

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 17, 2019:

I'm sorry, I don't understand the question. My general suggestion is to keep if generalized and brief, then elaborate if you have a job interview.

Magdalene on June 17, 2019:

Am given a chance to apply for the job in a different department, in the same company how can i say i was terminated in filing the job history where it is asking reason for leaving?

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on May 20, 2019:

There isn't much you can do unless you can prove it was wrongful termination in a court. Otherwise, move on and try to find other work, you could be better off for it.

Though in an interview, you'll have to state why you were fired and not try to place blame, it'll make you look bad. Just state what you have done to improve since then.

Fred bahm on May 20, 2019:

Forgot to mention. I was employed with this company for almost 20 years

Fred on May 20, 2019:

I worked at a construction rental company. The new district manger wanted to get rid of me and started writing me up for everything. I was on my 3rd and final write up. I had a machine thae malfunctioned on truck. It hit a bridge and i was fired. They tried to fight unemployment and i won. How do i approach this situation

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on May 19, 2019:

Sounds like a touchy situation.

First off, being with clients in a non-work setting is always a bad idea. Even if I see a client out in public, I don't say a word to them and they usually understand why.

Beyond that, investigating it yourself is usually a bad idea. You usually have a HR department who handles that and it could seem like intimidation.

You could simply state you improperly handled a situation involving an internal investigation. But, with the story changing, it would be hard to back that up.

You can ask them to provide you something in writing why you were terminated to utilize in future interviews and have proof. If they want you to finish paperwork for them, that could be a time to state that you want something in writing advising why you were terminated to use in future job opportunities.

Erick White on May 18, 2019:

I mentioned something in questions but didn't feel I had long enough.

I was fired from a job in the healthcare field. HIPPA Applies. There was no moral turpitude involved in anything. I have been both told that there has never been an issue or a complaint from me before. I did not receive written warnings or corrective measures.

A situation developed during a intercompany issue that involved several staff and clients. I was not on the clock during said function. I was accused of cursing and ridiculing. I have others that witnessed the situation associated with me. I had been asked to attend by others. Someone (presumably for attention) began spreading lies and slander the following day which began to impact work and started a big interagency issue.

I was told about it, at work the following day as I was filling in for someone on my only day off. I attempted to go and resolve the issue. I was quoted from someone else as saying I was "Going to get to the bottom of this excrement." As I was attempting to do so.

I attempted to resolve the issue by clearing up any misunderstanding or communication with the individuals whom had claimed days later I had said something I had not and started the whole rigmarole. I did so directly after the discussion of the issue with a supervisor in which I had told them I would not attend anymore functions, etc..

The next day I was hauled in and told that I had been "intimidating others." By knocking on the doors of those involved to try and 'resolve' the situation. I was then given two completely different reasons I was fired from two different clients and lead to pick up my stuff. Others that attempted to point out that the initial information given was not what happened as they had been present and I had not been on the clock were threatened.

I have had a strong relationship with individuals whom have dealt with me regularly. The issues that I was given for termination were not what the company sent to unemployment as they are attempting to block my unemployment as well. The things they have told former employee's are also different. The issues are completely baseless and have been exacerbated by individuals involved in the slander that started after said function.

I was told once (and not for the reason I was terminated) that my issue was attempting to resolve the issue on company time. This however, again, was not the reason I was given. The reason given to unemployment was "Badgering others while on the job..." I never spoke to anyone. I knocked on the doors to try and resolve the issue in an area in which I was working.

Now, personally I know I should of picked a more appropriate time to try and resolve the issue, though I am not sure that would of mattered. They couldn't fire me since I was not on the clock for the previous issue in which they quoted both the lie and apparent cursing. Policy mentions that I am required to have three written warnings before termination.

If the supervisors and bosses were contacting me concerned over a situation that had not happened on company time and urged me to try and resolve the matter, and I attempted to resolve the matter, but did not speak to anyone..... Then what am I suppose to put down?

It truly seems as if I am some sort of scapegoat but I know that is not something I can put down on an application as the reason for leaving. I don't know which reason to put down as the reason keeps changing depending on who is asking.

I thought of saying on an application something along the lines of "Attempted to resolve a matter affecting work at an inappropriate time. Will choose better time to address issues in the future and resolve things at more appropriate times." Or something along those lines.

I am unsure of both the official reason (as the story keeps changing) and what to put since all of my previous assessments were adequate. I often had people whispering about me, and rules put into place that affected only me. The termination was sudden and I have no real recompense.

They repeatedly called me to ask me to finish paperwork days after the fired me.

I am unsure how I should proceed and have been informed that this has negatively impacted at least one application.

Mike Brumley on April 24, 2019:

Thank you

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on April 23, 2019:

I'm sorry for your loss.

To answer your first question, just hand in a letter providing at least a two weeks notice. Doesn't matter when, as long as you give them two weeks. Though I recommend you don't job hop unless you really find something better. Having too many jobs in a row can look bad as it shows you won't commit.

Some jobs ask for your work history, so it would be good to include anything you have had before. It may not be worth putting on your resume, but if they do a background check, you may need to explain why you didn't include it. Or, you may need to justify why there is a gap in your job history.

That last question is a big one. I didn't even land in the career I wanted or planned to be in. So it's all a roll of the dice and seeing what works for you.

Mike Brumley on April 23, 2019:

Its been a bad yr starting off David. Lost my mother in Feb 2019 which really left a hole in my heart i dont think ever could be filled, my 10yr old son is trying as it hurt him too.

Anyway got some questions id like to ask.

Well i just started this new job to get income coming in, idk if it will work in long run though? What is your recommendation for giving a notice(only if i find better job)? Anything recommend saying?

Will i need to put this job im on my resume' if its only for a couple wks?

Any suggestions about finding a career that fits me(online,college,trade school)? i can lean either way,but after my mom passing i dont know what to do.



David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on March 01, 2019:

I did respond to your question and I will here too.

First, in any response you'll leave out the other part about the complaint a co-worker made. The two don't really go together. I feel where you are coming from, but not one is going to see that as justification or retribution, and it will just make you look bad.

State you made the mistake and that you won't do it again. It was stupid and you admit it. Expand upon that and know it's illegal to sell lotto tickets and alcohol to minors, and you will strictly adhere to that.

Hanna on February 28, 2019:

I asked a question in the question section but i feel like I need to further explain to receive an appropriate answer.

I was fired from my supervisor position at a grocery store for selling scratch off lotto to a minor. It was a mistake, I should never have down it. The minor was a coworker who was a week away from his birthday.

My twisted reasoning was that I was extremely mad at the company. My teen-aged friend had just made a complaint about a coworker making inappropriate sexual comments and corporate informed the man that she had made the report. She called me in tears because she was afraid to walk to her car and he then started sending her creepy Facebook messages.

I sold to the minor a few days later and actually said "If they won't fire "blank" why would they fire me". I also figured it would not be pushed because one of the managers knew about other minor employees buying tickets in the past. Plus he only had a week until his birthday. I realize that nothing excuses me selling lotto to a minor, but i have no clue how to go about getting another job. I've been told that the company does not have the right to state why I was terminated but I'm a really honest person and have a hard time not being over honest. If an interviewer asks why I was fired I'm just gonna word vomit "I sold lotto to a minor a week before he was legal" and i can imagine that will not go over well. How do I explain that I made a (extremely illegal) mistake in the best way possible?

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on February 06, 2019:

I'm sorry for your situation. It's a hard thing to handle when your application is looked before because of a statement that you were terminated.

You can state things like, "Insufficient job performance" or "Dismissed due to insufficient improvement".

I also recommend you try government agencies. They typically consider everything when you apply for a job. I received a government job despite my termination.

Also, if you are still receiving treatment, you can talk to those giving you treatment about vocational services that may assist you in obtaining a job.

V on February 06, 2019:

2 yrs ago I was diagnosed with ADHD at the same that my 6 year old had the same diagnosis. How does a successful person get that diagnosis after 40 years? Long story short, the system I had established for myself had stopped working. I had some issues at work due to this but I was working with my boss on improving. I was also working with my child's pediatrician, a child therapist and his school to help him. I had to take time off through FMLA to pick my kid off from school and help him study and work on behavioral modification because I believed he was too young for medication. At the same time I entered treatment for myself. I was put on meds for ADHD. I lost 30 lbs but my ADHD did not improve and my anxiety and lack of sleep got worse. I made the decision to get off the drugs and simply do behavioral modification. My boss got promoted and the person who replaced him started leaving me out of meetings and making me report every minute of my day. I had a candid conversation with her about my situation. She said this like everything else will pass. A week later I was put on a Personal Improvement Plan for a month and after that time she called me in and said I had improved but not enough for her.

That was 18 months ago. I have always been a very disciplined person which helps with my condition a lot. I used this time to help my son deal with his anxiety and to control his impulses. We had to put him on medication since then but he has improved a lot. We moved to a county with better education and better help for him. His grades are up, he has friends and a good support system. So I have started to look again for a job but the "reason for leaving" always trips me because they are asking that on the online application. Im a firm believer in always being honest but if I was a recruiter the phrase "involuntary termination" would automatically make me skip myself.

You said it here many times - say you worked on your issues and highlight what I can do - but this can only be done if I make it to the interview, which so far has not happened whenever I used that phrase.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on November 28, 2018:

I think that is a great response, but I do recommend that you throw in something about how you will address your interpersonal skills. I'm a lot like you, I'm direct and to the point. It caused me some issues with my employees as well, so I had to learn how to soften and tailor my approach. One thing I recommend is throw in something that you will consider the person you are speaking to, and will adjust your tactics based on how they have responded in the past.

M on November 28, 2018:

I was terminated due to repeated calls to HR regarding perceived mistreatment of employees. I am a very straightforward person and when employees were having performance issues I would deal with that directly. I had employee who was under disciplinary action call into corporate HR 2 years ago and I was told to seek improvement with people skills. This same employee called corporate again before leaving his position. Then another employee called into corporate and even though I was exonerated, I was told that I should not have anymore similar issues. About a year later or a couple of months ago, I had two employees who were having performance issues. Both employees called in to Corporate and I was let go.

I have a letter of recommendation from my former supervisor who told me he didn't agree with the decision but it was beyond him. I also have letters of recommendation from a peer and direct report. I was a very high performing employee who was 1 of 10 people selected from the organization of 2200 to participate in a leadership forum over a 6 month period.

I am trying to decide the best way to represent this in an interview and any advise would be appreciated.

Here is what I am thinking of saying.

I was let go from my position due to concerns with my handling of under-performing employees. I am a very straight forward person who is passionate about my work and those I work with which has been construed as harsh at times. I have come to believe that more collaboration with the human resources department and my superiors will allow me to address similar situations with success in the future.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on November 25, 2018:

That you messed up. That you expressed a negative opinion about the company you work for.

Listen, employers know there are times employees are unhappy, but you try to keep that to yourself if you can. Admit you messed up and you won't do it again. If you have a problem, you'll find a constructive way to resolve it and not involve any clients when doing it.

D on November 25, 2018:

I was let go after I was apparently overheard by a client saying something negative about the company. How would I explain this during an interview?

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on November 19, 2018:

You can simply state, "I was terminated due to attendance issues, which have now been resolved".

Then in any interviews go over what happened and what you have done to resolve those issues. Show you made the effort to resolve them. Focus that the issues are resolved and you don't plan to have those issues again.

Katie K on November 19, 2018:


I am was let go from a job for not having my badge on me and missing to many times punches along with to many days missed due to sick kids and no family around to help. It has been resolved but I am not sure how to say it in my application for a job. PLEASE HELP

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on November 14, 2018:

It's a hard situation. If you state all of this and your former boss denies it, then it will look bad for you, even if you are in the right.

You need to state why you were terminated, but also state you had a difficult working relationship with the last boss, and you felt it was for the best you were let go anyways. Then state you always try to meet deadlines, and learned what you need to do in any future situations that may be like this.

A on November 14, 2018:

Hi David,

I was let go a few weeks ago. I have never been let go from a job before. I worked for my previous company for 14 years. My current boss was so difficult to work for and was not consistent with his leadership and lacked integrity. A week prior he sat in my office and told me that I was doing a great job a week later he lets me go because he stated the data base was backed up. I was not given the opportunity to focus solely on these leads nor was I given any plan of correction or write up. I was simply let go. A couple days later he puts his friend in my position. I had many residents and family members who were angry about the situation and volunteered to write letters of recommendation. I met quotas set forth by my regional and I was ahead of the expectation to fill the building. I do not know what to put on my application. I don't want to lie, I was let go but I don't even know how to begin to explain it. I am a positive person and want to take the high road but I need help on what write on job applications or say at interviews.

Thank you so much!

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on October 26, 2018:

There could have been many reasons why you didn't get that job. I would continue to be honest. However, is this always illegal, or just a reason that someone can be fired? If so, you can state you violated company policy and go in more detail in an interview. Or, you can keep it as is. It doesn't seem like a big deal to discuss salary, and any employer should know that. Just assure any future employers you won't do it again.

Carol on October 25, 2018:

Hi Dave,

I was fired for discussing salary with a fellow employee. (Illegal in CT). Not filing suit. How do I explain this in an interview or on a job application. I applied for a job was honest on the application never heard from them and my references were never called. Thank you.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on October 24, 2018:

On applications you can state you violated company policy. In interviews you can state what happened in regards to the sales report. You know it was a bad mistake to make and you learned from that mistake.

I would try to avoid using the word "fraud" if you can. Don't lie, but when using a word like that, it can guarantee you not getting a job.

JG99 on October 23, 2018:

Hey David,

I would appreciate some help. I was let go recently for Violating Company Policy. In more detail for fraud in regards to call reports (I worked in sales). It was a stupid mistake and now unfortunately have to find a new job. Was hoping you can help me out with what to say...

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on October 02, 2018:

I had a job just like that. I stated on my application that I failed to meet the employment standards, which you can put as well.

Then in an interview, you can state it was a job that required a quota, which you were unable to meet. Then you want to state what you learned from the experience and what you would do differently. Did you learn something new from it? How would you approach a job like that in the future? That's what you need to address.

The quota doesn't matter as much as being able to do the job behind the quota. If it's similar type of work, you need to address what you would do differently.

bkyle44 on October 02, 2018:

I was let go from a entry level inside sales job yesterday for not hitting my quota. I worked for the company for 13 months and hit my quota a few times but not consistently. It was my first real job out of collage as I am only 24. It was a very tough job don't get me wrong but I also wasn't coming close to the numbers. I wasn't however selling anything, I was setting up appointments cold for a director that would try to sign companies our service.

How do I properly set myself up for another job that requires me to hit a quota when I was let go from my only job with quota?

What could I be expecting in terms of interview questions?

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on September 27, 2018:

Problem with a family owned business is that they can and will make you do basically anything. It was 17 years ago, and it's probably been way too long for anyone to care about it (unless it was your last job).

I'd state you failed to follow directions. Then, in an interview, explain the situation. Don't place blame on the owner, just state you didn't realize that was something you should have done.

suzu on September 26, 2018:

I was fired for not running a personal errand for the owner’s mother with my own vehicle while the owner was out of the country. How do I state that? Also, it was 17 years ago.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on September 24, 2018:

That due to the inappropriate actions of your entire team, you were dismissed from you and your entire team were dismissed from your job.

In an interview, you can go into details about what happened and why everyone was let go, including you. Then state what you would do differently in the future and what you learned from it.

shiso on September 24, 2018:

Hi David. I was fairly recently terminated for the intentional and inappropriate actions taken by a member of my team that jeopardized a client relationship. I owned the team and even though my actions and directives were true and sound, everyone involved was let go. I understand I cannot say negative things about my former employer, but what is the best way to outline my termination?

Thank you.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on September 19, 2018:

Yup, I would go with that. That's the information given to you by your employer. Don't go with what the state gave you - who knows how that could be wrong.

Tim on September 19, 2018:


I was first suspended then terminated. I was reported by one of my supervisees to HR for having an alleged relationship with another of my employees. HR investigated and terminated both of us but did not provide us with any results of their investigation nor were we allowed to present our case. The termination latter came in mail and simply stated a violation of a company policy. I have over 20 years of spotless career with zero complaints. I did learn later that the employer gave the following reasons to the state (for unemployment approval) for my termination: providing preferential treatment, creating a hostile environment and time card mismanagement. I was never told any of this or provided an opportunity to defend myself. Do I state I was terminated for cause - a violation of company policy?


David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on September 15, 2018:

Well, typically you don't put on a CV why you left a job. So that's usually not the issue.

If you were on probation, you can state you were let go during probation. You didn't state why you were officially let go. Saying things like, "you weren't liked" or "set up for failure" won't make you look good. What reason did they give you?

Zan on September 15, 2018:

Hi. I was terminated a few about 2 months after being on a performance review for 6 months. The managers I reported to didn't like me much. I was set up for failure from the very beginning. I saw the signs and was fighting a losing battle. I never expected to lose the job just like that. Anyway, I fought the case at conciliation and the company subsequently compensated me. My challenge is what to exactly write as a reason for leaving on CV. Thanks

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on September 07, 2018:

It's a bad situation you got yourself in.

You can state it was for the move, but if your previous boss doesn't confirm that, then you won't get the job. But, if you give the real reason and the boss says it was for the move, then you cost yourself a job.

I can't answer this for you to be honest. If it was me, I would be honest why I was fired, and state it would never happen again. You knew it was a stupid choice and you won't ever do it again knowing what it cost you and how you felt afterwards.

Bela on September 07, 2018:

Hi, I worked in the same company fro 12 years. Last year I decided foolishly to pay my credit card through their bank account. Honestly my thought was I will pay it back before the accountant comes in January, I never did. We have an external accountant that does our books. Then, I wanted to tell my boss, the owner, but never had the courage. Long story short, I got fired in January. I paid it back the following week, boss and I are talking to each other. I started working with someone I know, he just asked me to work for his company when he knew I wasn't working, no questions asked. My plan was to move to the other side of the country and start a new life. My previous boss agreed that he would confirm that the reason for leaving was the move. I'm still here and need to apply for a second job. I don't know how to fill 'the reason for leaving" on the application and I'm more concern on how to tell my current employer since I feel like I need to tell him.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on August 25, 2018:

Well I don't have specifics, which is good since you don't want to share if it involved patients.

On a resume you don't need to state why you were dismissed, just the time you worked, so you are okay there.

For any applications, if you need to state it, you need to state it was due to improper procedure or some generic reason why you were terminated.

In an interview you need to briefly explain the situation and what you learned from it so it won't happen again. Don't place blame or play the victim, even if you are. You won't look good in that case.

Vivian Cubine on August 24, 2018:

I have worked in the Health Care field as an EMT for the last 8 yr.s . I am a veteran and a trained medic. I accepted a position at new a hospital ER 11 months ago. I have never had any problems with my care for any patient for 8 yrs. I have always taken care of patients as per hospital protocol and my personal compassion to the patients. I have worked at 2 hospitals in 8 yrs and have never had a bad review or anything negative put in my personnel file. I was fired from the second hospital 3 days ago for a totally unjustified reason. I asked HR what the appeal process was because I know I did nothing wrong and so do others. I was told there is no appeal process There were 4 of us involved in the situation and I was the only one fired. I am concerned with what to put on my resume. The unjustified firing not only effects my employment now but possibly never working in an ER again. It is also questioning my character. In fact yesterday the ER was calling me to come in because some one called in sick again. The staff know I am a team player, never call in sick and dedicated to my profession. The staff in ER was shocked when I told them I dont work there any longer because I was fired. My character, honesty and loyalty to my career are important to me as an individual. I feel I was the sacrificial lamb and I cant appeal anything to protect my good name and character so I can continue to work in a hospital ER. I need help on how to handle this unjustifiable firing on my resume or if asked in an interview so I can continue working in my chosen field of helping others.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on August 22, 2018:

It was just a few weeks so you shouldn't sweat it. State there was a disagreement between you and a senior staff member, which resulted in you being let go. Then in an interview state there was a misunderstanding between you and that coworker, and it had to do with the tone of your voice. You recognized the issue and it won't happen again.

Anonymous on August 22, 2018:

I was recently fired after only a few weeks of working at this place because another staff member (who had worked there for a longtime) made a formal complaint that they did not like the way i spoke to them and said they felt like I was talking down on them, however this was not my intention and I felt like my tone of voice would help to portray that but the staff member didn't let me know that they felt I was rude so I could apologise. Any suggestions on what to say? Preferably for applying on an online application in the section where it asks my reason for leaving a job and how would you suggest I word this in an interview. Thank you in advance.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on August 20, 2018:

That's a tough one. You can state you did not follow the right procedure when changing a diaper. Then in interviews, explain the situation and state what you would do differently from now on.

Jasmine Alexander on August 19, 2018:

I work at a Day care. A baby was squirming a lot while changing his diaper. I accidentally somehow the rash cream got on his lips careless to see it on his lips. I'm truly embarrassed to write this. I got terminated for that situation. How do I state the reason for my termination. This could hurt my whole career. For lack of supervision and carelessness.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on August 14, 2018:

Describe the incident. State what happened and unfortunately it was perceived as a treat. Keep that brief, but follow-up with a positive. Explain what you learned from that incident - like what actions could you have done different, how you would handle it differently in the future, etc.

Explain it, but end with the good. Make that the last thing they hear.

CarelessSmile on August 14, 2018:

I was fired after eight years of exemplary employment due to "behavior". Specifically for a supposed "threat" to my supervisor. The incident was completely taken out of context and though I truly believe that the manager who pursued my termination wanted me out because he didn't like me... I know that I can't use that because of the perception it gives possible employers.

How do I address this "threat" with the reason I was terminated when asked why? I don't even break spider webs on my balcony! I know that my previous employer only confirms employment and dates, but I am worried that any description of the the event will pose a threat to my ability to be hired.

Thank you in advance!

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on July 30, 2018:

You were terminated during probation which is a good thing actually. That happens all the time and gives you a clean break.

The thing is you need to own up to any issues that you may have been the cause of. You can state that your employer felt that your abilities were not a right fit for the organization, so they let you go. They gave you feedback and you have learned what areas you need to improve on for your next position.

Jeremy on July 30, 2018:

When I was fired during my probation period the reason given by my employer was that they had "lost confidence in my abilities". A couple of things led up to this including a steering meeting I ran then went badly one day (i.e. having to deliver bad news about a project being late), my manager also said I wasn't listening to feedback that was being given to me by project sponsors. This happened even though in the days and weeks leading up to the tough meeting I had I was given much positive feedback (from the same people that fired me).

Whilst there may have been some slight truth in the feedback given I believe that the main reasons I was let go were to do with politics, and my direct manager feeling threatened by gravitas and experience, both of which were positively commented on by other managers.

Do you have any advice on how I could explain this situation to potential new employers?


David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on July 29, 2018:

That's tough. You need to own up to it and acknowledge your mistake. State you learned from the experience and will follow the right protocol in the future.

Keep in mind ethics in things like this. State you'll always do what is ethical and own up to it if a mistake is made.

Singlemomma15 on July 29, 2018:

I was termanted they said due to falesafiing document, i worked as a Certified allergy specialist and my providers had asked me\ told me to date there there forms they signed for me. I had to make a case for a formulation and spoke to provider and had her sign then she dated that one. The next day my company wanted the codes added provider was not there that day so i went to main provider and spoke to her about codes to add and she told me the codes to use. I made a copy of the form the other provider signed and added codes other provider told me to use and changed date to that day since i spoke to the provider. I then scanned it in to the system and they sent it to complaince. I panicked and typed back to complaince that providers pen went out and i would have her resign a new one and redate and add codes again. I went back to orginal provider and had her resign and date and add codes . then uploaded forms back in. Got the reformulation and made the allergy shots and heard nothing about it. Till a new manager came in and got to nit picking and some what harrsssing me about the issue. She kept saying to me you sure thats what happened, didnt you do this or this and at this point it had been 2 weeks since the incident happened, so i could not remember Everything and i have high anxiety so when asked i had a anxiety attack because of the way she approached me. It was sent to complaince team in my company. 5 days later i was terminated after working a full day and after office hours on my personal cell phone. How do i approach this in a interview when asked? I know i should not have made a story up to get out of it and i have learned to never do that and be honest always when making a mistake.also to never date providers forms. Im not hr only one in that office that dates for providers and fills in missing things. Previous managers i have told about it said they had to do it when they worked in their clinics and just to keep it on down low because not everyone can do it.

Finn from Barstow on July 14, 2018:

Nice article. some good points and very straightforward.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on July 12, 2018:

Nope, you were laid off.

James on July 12, 2018:

My plant closed down, does that count as termination?

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on July 09, 2018:

You need to own up to it. On applications you can state, "I was terminated due to attendance issues, which have now been resolved". Then, when you get a job interview, you can go into more detail.

Tylor on July 09, 2018:

I just wanna know, the last time i was working it was 2012, my cotract was for 6 months. I wasn't a person who had clear vision of the jon is important basically id sometimes not go to work for 6 days or so even more but now i realise that there was something wrong with me and they terminated my contract on that 6 months so since then i cant be able to get a job even because my reference will be bad. what should i so please help. im ready to start my future

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 22, 2018:

Well you can't answer yes and state you were bullied into resigning, that won't look good at all. If they weren't going to fire you, but they pressured you to leave for one reason or another, then you can answer no.

But they could contact the previous employer and find out why you resigned, so you would need to be prepared for that eventuality.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 22, 2018:

You will need to change it, but not until you are let go or if you quit. As long as you are suspended, you are still employed.

Mike Brumley on June 22, 2018:

Ive already got some resumes typed up and printed out just recently, with this job im at,being suspended with possible termination, will i have to change my start and end date? The way ive got my resume now is for this job im at is March 2012 - Present. Will i need to change this if i get terminated? Thank you for your help

Mike Brumley on June 22, 2018:

I think this is great site. Id like to thank David Livermore for his helpful information.

Nancy on June 21, 2018:

I recently received a verbal job offer after 4 rounds of interviews and 5 "glowing" references. Next steps are to submit an actual job application form, and there will be a background check. My worry is about a previous job, 9 years ago, when I was pressured to resign by a bully department head. I wanted to leave anyway because the workplace had become so toxic, and I did have other options, so I resigned. However the new job application asks whether I've ever been fired or asked to resign. It's a Y/N question, and for Y answers the form says "please explain." How do you recommend answering?

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 21, 2018:

You will state you lacked proper communication and will ensure to properly communicate with your supervisor in the future. Own up to your mistake and show you learned from it.

Mike Brumley on June 21, 2018:

Hi i just got suspended with possible termination. The reason was i gestured torward my supervisor that i needed off by 230pmest. I clocked out at 232est. I had to pickup my son. If terminated, how will i address this? I guess i should have opened my mouth more. Ive never had any complaints, and super attendance there. Thank you.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 18, 2018:

State you violated policy. Data protection is a big thing, and you knew you were wrong. You will state that too. State you knew it was the wrong thing to do but you were trying to do your job. Explain how you now know it was the wrong thing to do and will properly access the data in the future.

Leave your boss out of it. If you state your boss was incompetent, that won't look favorably towards you.

Alphonse on June 17, 2018:


I'd really appreciate your advice on this. I was termimated from my job because I got some data for doing bank recon from my supervisor's comp without permission. This data was for our job together but not for anything else. She reported me for that act and the company code states its one strike policy so i got laid off. I knew i was wrong and i shouldnt have done that but i thought i shouldve gotten a warning at the most. How do i explain this to my future employers? I was asked to come back too but i thought it wouldnt be a great environment. There was great politics too as my boss didnt seem to know what she was doing for the most part. I was closing month after month after so many months behind.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 13, 2018:

If you check "no", then they will probably still make contact and may wonder why you checked no. If you check "yes", despite being terminated, you show you have nothing to hide and ready to explain any situation that comes up.

It's a risk either way, but your best bet is to check "yes".

Adrian on June 13, 2018:

Yes, I was hired on as a permanent employee and had a 12-month probationary period. Those, in fact, were their exact words, It wasn't working out. I know there were other things and the supervisor and I butted heads but there's no need to go into any of that detail with a potential future employer. As for checking yes or no to allowing them to contact this employer, should I put yes or no? I honestly don't know what kind of things the supervisor would say. He was younger than me and shockingly immature. Would it be worse to check No, don't contact or check Yes and chance him spewing word vomit?

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 12, 2018:

You explained it perfectly actually. It was your responsibility. That's what you learned from that experience and will ensure something is done if it's your responsibility, even if someone else says they will do it for you. I think your explanation is perfect.

Were you on some sort of probation before you became permanent? If so, you can state you were terminated during probation as the city felt it wasn't working out, if that was their exact words. Then during the interview you can elaborate on that with the explanation you gave me.

Adrian on June 12, 2018:

I was let go from my job with the City, and told: "it wasn't working out."

I've been there for 3 months and had been written up for mixing up my weekend schedule, another time for taking a fellow employees word for it when he said he would lock up the storage shed in our maintenance yard, and then he forgot to. How can I explain this on an application when asked have I ever been fired? Also what would be the best way to phrase that I've learned from these experiences and understand the importance of accountability in regards to double checking my weekly schedule, and making sure to follow through with every task from start to end, including securing our property, because at the end of the day im the person who was delegated the responsibility.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 04, 2018:

So you basically tried to cover up or change a "D" to a "B", like in school. Not good.

On a job application, state you were terminated due to improper practices. Then, in a job interview, state you were given the 90% standard and you were at a 85%. You were directed by someone "higher up" (if it's a boss, say so, but if it's a coworker, I wouldn't state that), that you could withhold those. It was discovered and you were terminated. But, you need to state you realized it was wrong and won't do it again in the future, even if it means you would be disciplined. You'd rather resolve the issue with discipline and learn from it instead of trying to cover up the mistake and not learn anything at all.

Angela on June 04, 2018:

In my previous job. Your performance was based on how many good surveys you’ve received from customers. My surveys were at a 85% but you had to have a 90% or you would get written or be demoted to a customer (termination). Because most of the surveys you would receive were about the experience they had one of the stores and had nothing to do with the customer service you provided over the phone. So Someone from a higher position gave me advice to not send the survey or to change a symbol so the customer wouldn’t receive the survey and only send it to the customers who would give good feedback. So I did that for a couple of weeks, and was called to the office due to doing that. And I was terminated do to survey fraud. So what should be my answer

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 04, 2018:

That really isn't enough details to give you a good, cohesive answer. What kind of fraud? By you or someone else? What have you done to prevent it in the future?

Those are questions you need to prepare for and address in any job interview.

Angela on June 04, 2018:

I was fired due to survey fraud. What should my answer be

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 01, 2018:

Doesn't matter how well you were liked or the kind or reputation you had, we all have to do the basics to keep our job.

You need to own up to it, then prove that you are caught up on all of the requirements and make a commitment to keep doing so in the future.

Robert Manduca on June 01, 2018:

I was "released" from a job which was my secondary job because I was late to provide some health clearance and routine courses needed for yearly compliance. I had been on that job before full time for about 16 years without any issue before. I want to return to that company but now I am afraid of that record on my file. I had a excellent reputation there but the manager that released me did not know me much and 4 years have passed now.

Crazy on May 15, 2018:

Only time I was ever fired it was more of a easy letdown. Working retail was a paycheck while I was waiting for a position in my field. Worked September through February, the Christmas rush. In January I was told that they were letting me go next month, I was a good stocker who had to pull double duty when one of the cashiers quit but I wasn't a lifer in that industry and corporate knew it. So they got me to train a replacement and showed me the door. Then came a couple months unemployement, another ill-suited job and finally landing a position I waiting for and like (most days). That was 5 years ago but I'm still glad I worked retail, gives you a new perspective on things and made me much nicer to those people that do but gave me a seething dislike for just about everyone else,

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on May 15, 2018:

If the official reason was because of a customer complaint, then that's what you should go with. If they mentioned the other part, you can include that, but if they didn't, you shouldn't include it.

Regarding the customer complaint - typically a customer's request is priority in almost every business. State you were terminated for that, but in interviews, you can state you learned that customers are the priority and in any future positions you will make them a priority.