Why Were You Fired?

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One of the most common interview questions you will come across if you’ve lost your job in the past is “Why were you fired?” Prospective employers routinely ask applicants why they left their former positions- and if you left yours because of an involuntary termination- your interviewer will want to know more details. Alternate forms of this question include “Were you laid off?” and “Was there justifiable cause for your termination?” Your interviewers want to hear your side of the story. They also want to know whether you learned anything from the experience- as well as what the chances are of it happening again.

If you properly prepare to answer what can be an uncomfortable inquiry- you will be able to handle the question with grace and even make it work to your advantage. In today’s job market- many people are laid off or let go- sometimes for no reason at all. You may want to write out your responses and then practice them with a friend in advance- because rehearsing can build your confidence so you’ll be able to sail through replying to this difficult question with ease.

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How to Answer the ‘Why Were You Fired’ Question

Show What You Learned: Although being let go or laid off can be a devastating experience- showing what you learned from the experience while answering interview questions can serve you well in your future career. Perhaps the position or company wasn’t a proper fit for you; maybe there were communication glitches or a hostile work environment to contend with. No matter what the reasons- focus on the lessons you learned and stay as positive as possible. If you were fired because of errors you made or underperformance- you can say you made mistakes that you learned from and won’t repeat. You might also explain what you’ve done to improve in those areas. Perhaps you’ve taken classes to finesse your skills and expand your knowledge base. Owning past mistakes- demonstrating personal growth- and taking steps to improve and move on can be perceived as attractive and virtuous.

Begin and End With Positives: Sandwiching your responses about being fired between two positive comments can sweeten your answers to the uncomfortable questions. Not only will the interviewer hear your upbeat perspective- using this technique can keep the dialogue moving quickly forward onto easier topics. For example- if you were let go because of a hostile work environment- you can begin with a statement about how you perform best when working with supportive- encouraging workmates. Then you can add the detail about your past workplace having high turnover and internal conflict. Quickly close with another affirming statement about how you performed as well as you possibly could and how other teammates complimented you on your organizational skills.

Show Respect to Your Former Employer: Always remain respectful when discussing your former company and employer to prospective employers and others in the industry. Trash talking during job interviews or networking sessions reflects negatively on you- so avoid finger pointing and bitterness at all costs. No matter how bad your last position or organization was- badmouthing the job or company will make you look worse than them. State facts swiftly- truthfully- and positively; then move on. For example- you might say that even though there were internal conflicts and a high percentage of turnovers- management was struggling to overcome them. Adding a footnote about their strengths- such as functional products or good intentions- is also a plus- and that you wish them luck with the future of their organization.

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Sample ‘Why Were You Fired’ Interview Answers

1. I was fired for not meeting the goals and requirements for an employee in my position. I realized I needed help- and if I had it to do over again- I would have asked for additional training and support when I first began to struggle. Since that job ended- I have gained additional skills by enrolling in several continuing education courses. After completing them- I know I’m ready to tackle a similar job and meet all goals. It was an unpleasant event initially- but I have learned important lessons that will help me on my future career path.

2. I took the sales position because I am outgoing and enjoy interacting with people. I easily make connections- start conversations- and thought these traits would suit the job well. I hadn’t realized how competitive the industry is and underestimated the length of time it would take to generate client leads and build my customer base. Because I was new in sales- I had trouble getting up to speed. My boss and I decided I needed further training to be successful. Thankfully- I have learned many helpful sales strategies- received great training and advice- and am now ready to move ahead on with a new position.

Now that you know how to answer these difficult interview questions about being terminated from a previous job- you’re ready to interview and land your next position.

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