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Interview Question: How to Answer "Why Were You Fired?"

June 27, 2021

You’ve been fired: you feel like the world is coming down on you. Maybe it’s time to start applying for new jobs, but how do you tell your potential future employer when you know having gaps in your employment record is a red flag? We hear you -- it’s a tough topic to talk about but it’s unavoidable as it is likely your interviewer will ask you about it during a job interview. It may be tempting but don’t wing your answer. You must prepare your what you’re going to say before you go into the interview -- read this article to make sure you deliver the right response.

Why interviewers ask “why were you fired?”

Of course, the interviewer would like to know the story of why you were fired from your last job. They want the insight knowing this information will provide them about you as a worker. But this is not the only reason they ask why you were fired. The interviewer knows that people change and grow when in tough situations and wants to see how you coped with getting fired. If you show that you can take responsibility and learn from your mistakes, the interviewer will feel assured that you won’t be making the same mistake again.

How to answer "why were you fired?"

Keep in mind that while getting fired is hard, you need to be honest yet positive about your experience. The point is to show that you have grown both professionally and personally. Make sure your answer is short and sweet showing your growth in a concise response. Here are 3 steps to take when crafting the perfect answer to “Why were you fired?”

1. Fact Check Yourself

Employers always check your references provided so you need to make sure that the story you tell about why you were fired perfectly matches what your previous boss or managers would say when your potential employer calls them. Don’t lie or fudge some facts--this will bite you in the butt. Before you start crafting your answer to why you were fired, it’s not a bad idea to check in with your previous employer to get their exact story on why they decided to fire you.

2. Be Positive

Always be positive when talking about yourself and your former employers. Don’t bad mouth anyone, ever. This means you need to take a deep breath and come to terms with your termination before stepping foot into the interview. Show that you’re a better person now that you had the experience of getting fired and show that it challenged you, making you do better and growing as a result.

3. Show Your Growth

When challenges push us to the edge, the most personal growth occurs. Don’t fear that explaining why you were fired will make you look bad as quite the opposite is true. Firstly, concisely tell the story of the situation that resulted in you getting fired. Secondly, explain what you learned from your experience, flipping this downfall into a major strength. Lastly, carry on talking about your strengths and how they make you a great fit for the company. Really, the goal is to show what you have to offer the company.

What not to do

  • Don’t be negative. You need to remember that you are showing yourself in the best light possible and negatively will weigh you down. Stay positive; prove you’re better than before.
  • Don’t lie. It may be tempting to lie as you may feel that lying is the easiest way out. Just seriously-don’t.
  • Don’t use negative language. Examples of negative language you should avoid using are words such as “fired” or “terrible”. Instead, use words such as “let go” or “not a good fit”.

Want more interview prep? Check out our posts on: 

Interview prep for Founding Engineers

How to answer the interview question, what do you bring to the company

How to talk about a career change

How to talk about your long-term career goals

For other interview tips, check out our other posts on interviewing on the blog.

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