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How to Answer the Question "Why Were You Fired?"

Written by Lisa DiVirgilio, MS.

You were let go. Now, to add insult to injury, your next potential employer may ask why you were fired. It’s not necessarily something you want to rehash, but something that needs to be dealt with in your next job interview.

It’s important to remember not to lie, stretch the truth or drag your old company and/or boss through the mud when you answer this question. You always want to appear in control and confident of your work and yourself.

Here are a few ways to answer this question without getting into the nitty, gritty details. Don’t dwell on the answer for too long--simply answer it and move on. You don’t want to place an extreme amount of attention on it, but you do have to address it if asked. These answers will also help you to stay in the best light possible during your job interview, but also show that you have realized that being fired means that not only were you not the right fit for the job, but the job wasn’t the right fit for you. Turn a negative into a positive. “Being let go, for me, ended up becoming a great opportunity. Now, I have the ability to take time to explore new jobs that better suit my qualifications and my interests. Everything that I’ve researched has led me to the opportunity at your company. Can I tell you more about why I’m the one for this position?”

Show that you’ve grown from your experiences. “I’ve had some time to think about everything since I had been let go. There were things I would have done differently. That job was a great learning experience and now I am much wiser because of it, so I am very grateful. I know things now that I didn’t then. I’d like the chance to prove that to you by taking on this position.”

Explain that you’ve decided to change industries. “The turn over rate in that industry was very high due to its fast-paced nature. I soon found out that that wasn’t the industry that I wanted to be in. I, at times, can be a perfectionist and may take a few more minutes than others to get the job done correctly. But it is always done correctly. I believe that this attention-to-detail mindset will help me be very successful in the position you have available.”

Respond if you were at your job a short time and have a proven track record otherwise. ”I didn’t know my boss’ expectations or why he let me go as quickly as he did before I had a chance to prove myself in the last position. I’m a big believer in open communication. But as you’ll see in other positions, I have a track record of being highly successful, hard-working and competent in any job I take on.”

Admit you made a judgment error in selecting your previous position. “I so desperately wanted a job, so I took the first one that was offered to me without deciding if it’d be the right one for me. It turns out, that I was made for something else – which is exactly what I believe this position you have available is.”  This response then should be followed up with why your skill set would be an ideal fit for the position which you are now applying for.

Any potential employer likes to see how you’ve turned negative or unfavorable situations into positive ones, because this positive mindset is a necessary skill to have in every work environment.  All of the answers we’ve shared will help you show you’ve learned from your experiences--proving you’re an innovative, creative individual who shines despite the imperfections of previous job opportunities. Remember, no person is perfect. No job is perfect. But that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve tremendous success in your career.

Lisa DiVirgilio, MS
Lisa DiVirgilio, MS

Lisa DiVirgilio is the marketing manager at WyckWyre, a web-based restaurant recruiting system that works with all segments of the food and hospitality industry to streamline the hiring process. DiVirgilio holds a bachelor's degree from Binghamton University in English and a master's degree from Quinnipiac University in journalism.DiVirgilio's main.. Read more

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