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How to Explain Termination In an Interview

Updated on March 21, 2014
donotfear profile image

Annette Sharp holds a BAAS in Behavioral Science from Texas A&M. She is a counselor and motivator with an empathetic heart.

"Packing up and moving out....the left foot of fellowship!"
"Packing up and moving out....the left foot of fellowship!" | Source

Job Termination Woes

Imagine this scenario: One day you’re safe and secure in a job you love; the next, you’re terminated and wondering what happened. Worst of all, you were canned because of something you did, or didn’t do, that ticked off the director to the point you get the old left foot of fellowship with no progressive action taken. Simply, “You’re fired!”

I thought about this a long time after I was unexpectedly given the boot. I couldn’t think of a tactful way to explain why I was terminated. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t going to volunteer the information to anyone until they asked. After going through the dictionary, talking to other people about it, and doing a little research, I came up with a sure-fire way to give a logical, and humble, explanation for the termination.

On the Employment Application

First, how do you answer ‘Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?’ on an employment application? There’s the simple answer: POSITION LOST. To me, that’s the shortest and sweetest answer. It’s a nice way of saying “Dude, I got fired”. Then there’s always INVOLUNTARY DISMISSAL, but it sounds too harsh. Of course, if you’re really brave you can put TERMINATED on the application. Whatever reason you give, make sure you’re honest, but don’t reveal too much information on paper.

The Interview

Next, you actually get a job interview.  It’s all going very smoothly, you’re selling yourself, focusing on your strengths and they ask the dreaded question, “So, why did you leave your last job?”  (Rats, why did they have to ask!?)   So here it comes, you take a collective breath:

Your Possible Answers:

Answer 1:  “My skills didn’t seem to be the right balance to meet the employer’s expectations.  I believe my abilities are more suitable for this position”.

Answer 2:  “I originally took the job knowing it may not be right for me.  I consider it a relief to be able to freely look for new opportunities now.  I learned from the experience, though, and now have a better understanding of what’s most suitable for me.”

Answer 3:  “I lost the position for reasons unrelated to job performance.  The employer decided I just wasn’t the right fit for the organization anymore.  My work record was flawless, though, and I have several references that can validate my work ethic.”

Answer 4:  “There was some conflict that interfered with the job. I don’t think I had a good understanding of what management expected, but since then, I’ve been able to determine what the problem was and use it to my advantage in the future.”

Answer 5:  “I was experiencing some personal problems that interfered with my job but I’ve since resolved these issues.  I learned a lot from it, for sure, and now I’ve developed better coping skills that won’t interfere with work performance.  I’m excited about new opportunities. 

Even If It Was Wrongful Termination.... still must deal with answering the question without badmouthing the former employer. I know, I's hard, but nobody wants to hire someone who talks about how unfairly they were treated, and so forth, even if it's true!

It’s a lot easier to explain losing your job if it was due to downsizing, layoff, budget cuts, or some other reason because you can always say, “The company laid me off due to budget cuts…..” or whatever happened. But when you lose a job for personal reasons, conflict, or poor performance, that’s when your answers can make or break the interview.

If you find yourself in this situation, try practicing what you’ll say to potential employers. You’ll gain confidence and get good practice. So, be prepared when asked the dreaded question, “Why were you terminated?” Know exactly what to tell job interviewers when they ask you why you left your last job. You won’t regret it and you learn more in the process.

Tell Us Your Experience

Have you ever been fired from a job?

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    • profile image

      Candice Harding 3 years ago

      I think this is a great resource for people working with this obstacle, whether or not they are pursuing wrongful dismissal action. Job interviews are all about selling yourself. That's never been more true than when you have a black mark on your record like job termination. It's so important to be honest with your potential employer, but sometimes it can be hard to know what to say. You have some great ideas here!

      Candice Harding

    • donotfear profile image

      donotfear 5 years ago from The Boondocks

      Thank you Sheri Faye!

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 5 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      This is very good advise! I have been the dreaded interviewer hundreds of times and the honesty is the best policy route is always the best. I just published a similar hub but for employers. Well written and I couldn't agree more!

    • donotfear profile image

      donotfear 5 years ago from The Boondocks

      Thank you very much, iguide!

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 5 years ago from Austin, TX

      If it would've been me, I would be lost right on the spot. Haven't been terminated yet, but if I were (I hope not), I would keep this as reference. Voted up and useful. :)

    • Organised Kaos profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS)

      Ahhh if only I'd read this a week ago. Luckily, my new employer loves me and didn't ask!

    • donotfear profile image

      donotfear 6 years ago from The Boondocks


    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Make sure you keep your fingers crossed and take a rabbit's foot with you for your interview...LOL

      Great hub - voted up


    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, donotfear, LOVED this hub. Very much. Voted up and away. I love your writing style--very fresh, humorous and honest. The ingredients of a pro hubwriter. Have a Merry Christmas and I invite you to check my hubs if you need a laugh and I invite you to follow me. That would be great. Sincerely, Kenneth Avery, from Hamilton, a small northwest Alabama town that makes you think of Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show.

    • donotfear profile image

      donotfear 6 years ago from The Boondocks

      Thanks for the comments. I sure hope it helps somebody else!

    • heart4theword profile image

      heart4theword 6 years ago from hub

      I think this would help allot of people, who are looking to get started to apply for un-employment? Good examples and information you provided:) Your title and picture got me here, to read what you had to say!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Very well written but it won't apply to me anymore.