Being fired from your job is a challenging experience. It can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss with friends and family, let alone a prospective employer. If you’ve been fired, worrying about how you’ll address it when looking for your next job is not unusual. Even if you don’t tell a hiring manager outright that you were let go, you will likely be asked, “Why were you fired?”
So, it’s best to be prepared to tackle this tough interview question head-on. Here, we’ll explain what to say when a hiring manager asks why you were fired and share some sample scripts you can tweak and use during your interview.
Why do interviewers ask this question?
First and foremost, an interviewer wants to know more about your dismissal circumstances. They’re looking to find out if it’s something illicit, like stealing from the company, or if it was tied to your work performance.
An interviewer also wants to see how you navigate an undoubtedly tricky question. Do you handle it with poise, or do you get defensive? Since you can’t change the fact that you’ve been fired, think of your answer as your opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism to your prospective employer.
What hiring managers want to hear in an answer
Hiring managers are looking for candidates who can cope with difficult situations. Getting dismissed from your job is a challenging setback, so you should be prepared to explain how you dealt with the fallout and what you’re doing to bounce back.
Employers also want to know if you’ve taken steps to correct what led up to your firing. How will you ensure it doesn’t happen again if it was performance-related? If the job was a mismatch for your skills, how have you identified what kind of role will be a better fit?
How to answer the interview question, “Why were you fired?”
Whether or not you feel your firing was justified, taking ownership of your role in getting let go is important. Acknowledging that you understand why it happened is important to helping a prospective employer feel confident the situation won’t repeat itself.
Cite any steps you’ve taken to correct what led to your firing, like working to strengthen your technical skills or being more diligent that you’re applying for jobs that fit your qualifications.
Keep it brief
This is one interview question where you can definitely say too much. You should be able to explain your firing in one or two sentences so you can then move on to talking about your strengths.
How not to answer
It’s perfectly valid for a hiring manager to want to know why you were fired, so you shouldn’t act surprised or offended when they ask. Maintaining your composure will go a long way toward demonstrating that you’ve grown from the experience.
While it’s fine to acknowledge a conflict that led to your dismissal, avoid placing blame on others, like your former boss or a difficult coworker.
Whatever you do, don’t misrepresent the details or say you left voluntarily if you were in fact fired. It’s too easy for an interviewer to find out the truth through other sources, and being caught in a lie will cost you the job most.
Sample answers to “Why were you fired?”
“I made the mistake of letting some personal issues get in the way of my work performance. All of that is resolved now, so I feel confident I’ll be able to focus on my work fully. I’ve also realized I should’ve communicated better with my boss when I knew I was falling behind so that we could have prevented it from impacting important deadlines.”
“I went into the job knowing that my technical skills weren’t quite up to par, but I hoped my dedication could make up for what I lacked on the technical side. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case. This time, I’m ensuring I fully meet the qualifications before applying, and I feel this role is a much better fit for my skill set.”
When asked why you were fired, the best thing you can do is be forthcoming and genuine with your answer. By responding with humility and professionalism, you’ll show the hiring manager that you’ve learned from past mistakes and have taken the necessary steps to succeed in a new role.