Why Were You Fired

How To Answer Interview Question: Why Were You Fired?

If you involuntarily left your previous job, it means you were either laid off or fired. Being laid off will not reflect poorly on you, but being fired would. This is because being fired ultimately occurs as a result of workplace conflict, bad conduct, incapability, or unprofessionalism; all of which portrays you in a bad light.

As uncomfortable as the question can be, interviewers are mainly interested in knowing the circumstances that led to the termination, to determine whether it has something to do with your own character. Secondly, they equally want to see how you coped with the situation and if you took conscious steps to improve. A misstep in answering this question can totally mare your chances of securing the job. So while preparing for an interview, it is imperative to think through how best to handle this tricky question. Below are some tips to consider in explaining your job termination.


  1. Be honest and forthright.

Tell the truth about what really transpired that led to the termination of your previous job. Lying will only put you in a tangle because the truth always has a way of coming out, and no employer will want to hire a dishonest candidate.

Even though you should be absolutely honest when explaining why you were fired, you don’t have to give every detail about the circumstances around it. Keep your response high level, explaining what happened briefly. The last thing you want in an interview situation is to bring more attention to this kind of question.

  1. Let your answer be devoid of emotions.

Even if you feel you were wronged by being fired, remain calm and objective, without apportioning blame. In as much as the circumstance of your being fired can be hurtful, be positive and avoid derogatory comments about your previous boss or firm; it will only make you look distasteful and defensive.

The recruiter, who is an employer as well, is likely to side with your past employer if you go about your response negatively. Hence, start and end the conversation on a positive note, with a good countenance. The employer is trying to establish if you will be a positive addition to the firm or a drawback.

  1. Demonstrate that you have learned.

While answering this question, take full responsibility for your role in the situation. Even if you feel victimized, your action certainly contributed to the undesired outcome. Keep calm and be professional by showing how you have grown both personally and professionally from the experience. Responding in this manner will no doubt depict good personal traits of resilience, self-confidence, and character. The employer will be keen to know how you turned a negative situation into an asset.

No one is perfect; not you, your potential employer, and not a single employee at the prospective firm you are interviewing with. Perhaps, one or more persons on the interview panel have been fired in the past. Hence, they are not interested in you being perfect, but rather, what you have learned since the termination of your last job. So talk about how you have grown ever since and how better you will approach a similar situation in the future.

  1. Familiarize yourself with your former employer’s policies.

Some companies have very strict disclosure policies that are mostly part of the terms of employment. Any information within this preview, if disclosed by either a present or past employee will attract a penalty or even litigation. So before going for an interview, speak with your former employer’s Human Resource department to get a clear understanding of what you can or cannot delve into.

  1. Promote your skills and competencies.

The ‘why were you fired question’ can present an opportunity to talk about your skills and experiences. This will require you to digress a little, by talking about the value you think your experience has imbibed in you that will benefit the prospective firm. This helps you keep the conversation about your termination as brief as possible, and lead the discussion to your capacities, and how it relates to the open position. Caution is required in this regard so as not to appear dodgy.


 Examples of Answers to ‘Why You Were Fired’

Getting fired from a job can be a result of different reasons, here are some answers based on the likely reasons for termination

  • In a case of unmatched skillset, the response can be:

Sadly, my skills just weren’t a good fit for my previous employer’s needs. When I was first hired, they envisaged that they needed someone with my skill set. However while on the job, we realized they needed someone with a background in that specific industry. I basically wasn’t equipped enough to successfully carry out the role. After a year and a half, we decided it was best to part ways.”  

  • When laid off as a result of Organizational restructure:

“My role was actually outsourced to a contracting firm. Though my supervisor was satisfied with the work that I did, they ultimately decided that it was more cost-effective to lease the role contractually to a specialized firm”     

  • In a situation where you were fired for not meeting the company’s attendance policy, your answer can be:

“I faltered and allowed private circumstances to affect my attendance at work. However, I have stabilized my personal life and my attendance at work won’t be a problem. I have also learned how best to separate my personal life from work life or, if necessary, better communicate problems with my supervisor in advance”

  • If you were sacked due to a conflict with a coworker, you can put your response like this:

“I made a mistake while handling a conflict with a coworker. If I get the chance to go back again, I will explore the option of having a private discussion with them on how to fix it. However, after being let go, I realized the job wasn’t the best fit for my career progression. I was thrilled when I saw this role and think it’s the perfect match for my skills.”


What Not to Say

  1. Do not use the word “fired”

An interview is largely a sales pitch. So avoid words or terms that will de-market you or even statements with negative connotations. Use phrases like “let go” in place of “fired”

  1. No disparaging of your previous employers.

Keep all your comments positive, and avoid saying anything negative about your former firm. You will not need the hiring manager to wonder if you will talk negatively about the prospective firm if you were to be fired.

  1. Do not lie.

Eliminate any temptation of presenting a firing as a layoff. If you get caught you will lose the opportunity altogether. Be honest, and make your response short and simple.

Interview Questions

Leave a Reply