“Have You Ever Been Fired?”


For some, the question “Have you ever been fired?” can inspire a pit in the stomach when the answer to that question is “Yes”.  You may be among an unfortunate bunch who had a horrific experience at a company (or with a certain coworker or boss), that did not end well.  And whether your termination was your fault or not, it can continue to haunt you in your search for future prospects.  So what is the best way to field this tough issue?

Be Honest

First things first:  don’t lie.  It may be tempting to dismiss the topic altogether, hoping that the company you’re interviewing with never finds out – but what happens if they do?  If they find out during the interview process, you’re certain not to get the job.  And if they find out a few years down the line, no matter how great an employee you are, they may still decide to let you go.  A second termination is not what you want on your record, so do yourself a favor and be upfront and honest from the get go.  It’s much safer, and you’ll stress about if far less in the long run.

Provide Some Context

Explain the circumstances surrounding the incident.  If it was a conflict of interest, let the interviewer know.  If it happened 15 years ago, tell them that you now have a lot of distance from the incident and that your stellar work performance since then speaks for itself.  If it occurred in the more recent past, explain that you have learned quite a bit from the incident, but don’t spend your time making excuses.  Lay down the facts, and focus on what you’ve done since and will do in the future to demonstrate that you are a valuable employee who understands what it takes to be an asset to a company.

Don’t Give Away Too Much

While it’s important to be forthcoming in your response to this question, you also don’t want to spend too much time addressing the matter.  Keep the focus of the interview on what makes you the ideal person to hire, and spend as little time as you can conveying what the interviewer needs to know about that particular incident.  People who feel the need to defend themselves tend to over-explain, and this can portray lack of confidence and lead you down the wrong road.  Certainly stray away from speaking ill of your former boss or company, remaining as objective and succinct as possible.

No one likes getting fired and everyone wants to find a new job.  Don’t let one obstacle in your past set the tone for the rest of your career.  Concentrate on what you need to do to land your next job and on the reasons you’re a perfect fit for it, and the rest will follow.

Have a wonderful day,

The Doostang Team


  1. Josie says

    Thank you so much for this article and the timing is perfect. Today I woke up with no place to go as I was terminated last week, without notice. I have never been terminated before and am/was at the height of my career. I expect I will reread this article multiple times as I go through separation stages and attempt to regroup and handle the most devastating professional event I have ever experienced. I am truly devastated and numb. and hope others will share their experience and how they handled this challenge.

  2. Linet A. Obura says

    This topic was very informative given that I recently got fired and it wasn’t anything I did.

  3. says

    If I am asked to volunteer bad information about myself on a job application or in an interview I refuse to provide any information unless I am provided with specific information first. I will not tell them if I was ever fired from a job or if I was ever convicted of a crime. If they show me a statement from someone claiming that I was fired by them I will read the statement then comment on what the statement says. Likewise, if I am shown a document that claims that I was convicted of a crime I will read the statement then comment on it. I am sometimes asked to mention a weakness. This is a stupid question since people will not give an answer that will cause them to be rejected. People should know their weaknesses and strengths and only apply to jobs that use their strengths and which do not use their weaknesses. Thus, they can mention a genuine weakness since the weakness is not a factor for the job which they are applying to. They can also mention a weakness which they have corrected or are in the process of correcting. I used to have little contact with live people and ended up communicating with people on the internet. I ended up interacting with the wrong people on the wrong websites. I sought advice. I now interact with live people and spend little time on the internet except to check my Yahoo mail and Hotmail and to lookup useful information. I left my job since it isolated me from my coworkers and required me to spend a long time each day commuting alone by car. I am now unemployed and unable to find work based upon what I know. I am studying to learn a new trade. I probably will not earn as much as I did before but I expect that I will eventually have a job that will give me the live contact with people that I need and want.

  4. Ceci says

    This is a really bad response. At this point, 99 percent of companies only reveal your dates of employment, title and in a few rare cases (if you’ve signed a release), salary. Companies fear lawsuits. You can create any reason you want for why you were let go.

  5. Nick Fletcher says

    What I could never understand about this scenario is how a new employer would find out the reason for separation. Aren’t previous employers required to only confirm salary and dates of employment?

  6. marie says

    I am wondering how terminations are listed. I have been asked for a resignation letter in lieu of termination, laid off from a closure, and terminated for restructure. How do you address those issues? How do employers discover where you have worked – do they go to Social Security to get our work history to verify what we have placed on our resume/job app? Two of the above jobs ended before the 90 day “probation” period so I was told I shouldn’t even have them on my resume. What are employers using to verify information?

  7. Kade Ja-latefah says

    People get fired all the time now – downsizing, right sizing, relocation etc etc. if your new job pulls your credit report- and many do now- they might get some (albeit inaccurate) info about your employment status history. I wish Doostang would have given some examples of how to spin it! My answer to the “have you ever been fired,” is “who hasn’t “!

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