How to Tell Your Interviewer You Were Fired

The interview is going great—you ace every question, have a great rapport with the interviewer, and are pretty much perfect for the job. But then, your prospective employer asks about your last position and why you weren’t there very long. Memories of a company shakeup and a newly minted (but hardly qualified) boss showing you the door flash through your mind. Yeah, you were fired. But does the interviewer really need to know that?

The answer is yes. If you lie, it’s going to come up eventually. They might ask for a reference. Or that lie could lead to six or seven more. And that’s not how you want to start a new job.

Now that you know you have to tell your interviewer you were fired, how do you go about doing that?

Accept That You Were Fired

You were fired. It happens. The first step of telling any future interviewer you were fired is accepting it yourself. Being able to view that event objectively, not subjectively. Realize that, in all likelihood, nobody was out to get you. Whether it was a mismatch of personalities that led to a less than stellar workplace environment or the simple fact that you didn’t yet have the skills for the job.

Regardless of reason, the important thing is that you’re okay with it. You don’t want to go into interviews complaining about how terrible your boss was or how nobody liked you. That makes you look like a drama-prone employee. Plus, if you complain about your last boss, how does your interviewer know you won’t end up whining about them in the future? Settle your emotions so that you can talk calmly about your firing without all of that emotional baggage.

Focus on What You Learned

Most interviewers don’t want to hear complaints about your previous boss. They want to hear about how the firing affected you as an employee. Which means you should focus on what you learned from the event. Make sure to portray yourself in a positive light. If you were fired for your workplace behavior, you should have made changes. Maybe you learned that the company culture wasn’t for you, or you weren’t right for the night shift. Just make sure that you learned something, and that you’re a stronger job candidate because of it. Turn your firing into a good thing, something that highlights newfound strengths.

Just Tell Them

Be confident and honest. Those are qualities most everyone can agree are great to have in a candidate. Interviewers know acknowledging you were fired isn’t easy. But doing so demonstrates your character. So just tell them. Let them know what you learned, how you’re a better employee, and avoid mentioning anything negative about your previous boss. The thing is, the person who’s sitting in front of the interviewer now isn’t the same you who was fired from your previous job. You’re different. You’ve learned things. Show your potential employer that.


Have you ever had to tell an interviewer you were fired?  How did it go? Let us know in the comments below!







  1. Ken Lawson

    I hired hundreds of people through the years running several businesses. My best employees were the ones who volunteered that they had previously been fired. But they all said that they had learned something by having had that experience. I found that if the story that they told was the whole truth, then they really had improved as an employee. Those that didn’t try to improve themselves enough to be fired at least once in their career were probably good, but mediocre employees.

  2. Cathy

    I’m really glad this topic came up, and I appreciate Mr. Lawson’s comments from an employer’s perspective. I was “let go” from a job I’d had for only three weeks. I was totally blindsided, shocked, and mortified. When I asked why, the only reason I was given was that it “wasn’t a good fit.” I was hoping for a more instructive explanation, something I could learn from as I moved forward. Does this qualify as being fired? I’ve considered not including this job on my resume, given its brevity and how little it contributes to my work history, but that makes me uneasy, because it feels like a lie of omission. But how am I supposed to explain what hasn’t been explained to me, and do so without complaining or sounding defensive?

  3. Debbie

    Because I had been promoted in the months prior to my “termination” and given a large and well-deserved raise, it was never an embarrassment nor reflection on my skills or abilities. I had worked for over 30 years as a professional, with many great referrals and praises, and received wonderful support from other employees and my patients. Their recognition was extremely satisfying.

    It was obvious, within the medical environment I worked, that the sudden and unwarranted cuts of “elder” employees was a foolish business decision, which did not improve patient care nor operations. If anything, it only hurt the administration and it’s credibility in the community. Sadly, for so many of us who lost our jobs at that time, the impact of lost wages and benefits was beyond recovery and affected our lives in an unfair and horrible way.

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