Cheat Sheet: How to get around the fact you’ve been fired in an interview scenario

No matter how long ago it was, talking about being fired is a tough line to walk in a job interview. 

Fired female employee holding box of belongings in an officeHowever, with the right approach you can pivot this hiring red flag into an opportunity, highlighting your self-awareness, resilience and growth. Here’s how to prepare for the dreaded discussion.

Embrace Radical Honesty

Brutal honesty is generally about someone else, whereas radical honesty is about yourself, and your own experiences. 

This phrase ‘radical honesty’ was trademarked in 1997 and is based on a book released the previous year by Brad Blanton. It encourages people to acknowledge reality and face uncomfortable truths about themselves.

Get out of your victim mindset by pushing yourself to think rationally, and look at the situation from an outsiders’ perspective. 

Owning the circumstances around your dismissal is key. Be honest with yourself about what led to your termination, and the lessons you learned from it. Embracing reality is the first step in building a convincing narrative. 

Prepare your story

Getting fired is usually the result of poor performance or unmet expectations, but sometimes it’s for misconduct or gross misconduct.

Misconduct includes being consistently late, consistently submitting work that isn’t up to standard, being rude to colleagues or clients, or using company equipment for personal use without prior permissions.

Or maybe you were fired for gross misconduct, like theft, repeated absences, drug or alcohol use at work, bullying, harassment, assault, fraud, vandalisation of company property, violence or making threats. 

Depending on why you were fired, you might be radically honest, or maybe you’ll need to be a bit more vague. 

Addressing the difficult question

If an interviewer brings up your termination, address their concerns directly and confidently.

Worst-case scenario, you can say something nebulous like:

“I made an error in judgement that led to my termination. It was a valuable lesson for me, and I’ve taken steps to improve and ensure it doesn’t happen again. I’m committed to continuous personal and professional growth.”

Your best-case scenario might be more like the below, but more specific to the element of poor performance or missed targets/deadlines.

“I had some difficulties with a particular aspect of the job that I underestimated when I first started. Despite my efforts to improve, it ultimately led to my termination. However, I’ve since addressed those weaknesses and am now confident in my ability to excel in these aspects.”

The key is to acknowledge shortcomings or mistakes, while demonstrating what you learned from the experience, and how you’ve grown as a result. Think honesty, accountability and a commitment to growth. 

If it was gross misconduct

Highlight any steps you’ve taken to rehabilitate yourself professionally and personally since the incident. This could include seeking counselling or therapy, attending workshops, or volunteering in your community. 

By demonstrating your commitment to self-improvement and personal growth, you can show employers that you’re actively working to become a better version of yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how we learn and grow from them that ultimately defines us.

Be positive about your former employer

As well as explaining why you were fired from a particular company, it’s a good idea to highlight the positive aspects of your time there. Discuss accomplishments and contributions to the organisation, and avoid placing blame or speaking negatively about your former employer. 

Provide references

Offer references from colleagues or managers who can vouch for your skills and character. This can really reassure a hiring manager of your capabilities, and compatibility with their company culture. 

Looking for more career advice?

Check out our Cheat Sheet series which includes advice on what to never say in an interview and the things you should never do when you leave a company. 

Want more like this?

If you enjoyed what you’ve read above, and would like to get original work-related content on your own website, plus the chance to maximise your revenue, contact us now.

Author Amanda Kavanagh

More posts by Amanda Kavanagh

Leave a Reply