How do I explain getting fired?

It’s one of the hardest things to deal with in your work life, but it doesn’t mean your career’s over. Here’s how to talk about getting fired.

How do I explain getting fired?

Honesty is the best policy when explaining why you got fired.

There’s no easy way to explain to people why you were fired from a job. Call it a termination, separation, or conscious uncoupling from your employer—whatever your euphemism of choice, you’re going to have to address it sooner or later, and how you do so can speak volumes.

Bear in mind, however, that getting fired doesn’t mean you have an eternal black mark on your resume. In fact, you can actually use the experience to illustrate how you’ve grown as a person and employee.

Ultimately, when it comes to getting fired, all you can do is own it. And when the subject comes up in your next job interview—and you know it will—you can make sure you’re prepared to address it honestly, while still framing yourself in the best possible light. Wondering how to do that? Don’t worry; we’re here to help.

Honesty is the best policy

Rule number one: Tell the truth. We can’t stress this enough—if you get caught covering up a firing on your resume, you’re putting your career at unnecessary risk. Lies have a way of coming to light, whether it’s through references or shared connections, and you don’t want to end up with a rescinded offer—or worse, a tarnished reputation that follows you throughout your career.

So, when the dreaded question comes up during an interview, what's the best way to answer? First of all, be as candid about it as you can. People get fired for many different reasons; try to give your prospective employee the clearest, most objective take on it you can.

That one word—objective—is a crucial one. There are two sides to every story (sometimes more), and it'll be obvious if you're painting the situation in a manner that's primarily self-serving. However you feel about getting fired, it's never the best idea to place the blame squarely on your old employer. Instead, calmly evaluate the circumstances of the firing (the majority involve either personality or performance), and you're more likely to telegraph maturity instead of lingering resentment.

Learn from your mistakes

Rather than dwelling on the painful realities around why you were fired, use them as a springboard to showcase what you learned—both about your career and yourself as a human being. What could you have done differently? How would you approach your old job now, with the benefit of hindsight? Before, you were younger, more naïve, and you may have let petty personality conflicts get the better of you. Now, though, you have experience on your side—and you’re not letting it go to waste.

Again, don’t deflect blame. In an interview setting, the best approach is always to accept the mistakes you may have made. For example, saying, “I didn't have a clear understanding of expectations" is far better than saying, “They didn't tell me what their expectations were,” even if your personal opinion varies.

In the end, it’s about owning your past, not making excuses for it. And if you can drive that outlook home both in tone and content, your target employer may walk away impressed by your ability to learn and grow, rather than hung up on one moment of your career you’d rather forget.

Get resume reassurance

You want to put your best foot forward when you're embarking on a job search. In your particular situation, you need to do everything possible to make sure you're coming off as professional, prepared, and qualified for the position. Having a stellar resume is step one to convincing employers to call you in for an interview. Could you use some help making sure your resume gets you in the door? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. Don't let getting fired hijack your career.