How to explain being fired or laid off in the job interview (with examples)

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When looking for a new job and having a job interview you will get questions regarding why did you leave your last job. These questions are inevitable and you will be asked about reasons for leaving your employment. But what if you got fired and the situation turned ugly? Though you can have good reasons for leaving a job. We will show you what to say in an interview when you were laid off or fired. These tips with lots of examples should help you to handle this conversation and figure out the best way to answer why you left a job.

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Why do Hiring Managers ask This Question?

What is the main reason for asking a question like “why are you leaving your current job”? This question is one of the behavioral interview questions. It helps a hiring manager figure out whether you are a bad or a good employee. Your answer during the interview will show your reasons for leaving a job, your ability to stay in good terms with other people, your motivation to find a new job and measure your sense of obligation.

Moving to a Better Opportunity

The best way to show that you’re looking for a new place is: “The main motivation to quit my job was the desire to pursue new career opportunities and take the next step in my professional life.”

Wrong: “I decided to quit my previous job because I didn’t like it. The only reason I left is the job didn’t suit me.”

In case you were laid off or fired, you should be more careful answering this question. Down below you will find the common ways on how to explain being fired for performance or layed off.

Laid Off Vs. Fired

Before we help you answer interview question about being fired or layed off, we should explain the main difference between laid off and fired.

Reasons for getting fired can be various. The most common one for being terminated is unsatisfactory and bad job performance. Misconduct, incompetent with company regulations and standards, and damaging property can also be reasons for immediate termination. In general, it’s related to an employee’s behavior or performance. Whereas there could be good reasons for being laid off. When a team member gets layed off, it has nothing common with job performance. Employee layoffs are usually related to company restructuring or downsizing. Sometimes it can be temporary and the employee gets hired back after the economy improves. And now we can tackle answering questions about being layed off or fired.

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How to Explain Being Fired?

That’s a tough situation. But you should never lie about a reason for your termination or try to avoid this conversation. It’s highly recommended to discuss it diplomatically. Your main task is to assure a recruiter that you are not a risky candidate.

Don’t focus on the negative sides, but remember your professional value. In spite of all details, you still have your expertise, skills and knowledge to offer to your potential employer.

Wrong: “I was accused of stealing. That was not my fault. That was not me who has done this. It was my colleague Amanda and I got fired instead of her. It was so unfair to me.”

Stay succinct in telling about reasons for getting fired from a previous job. Keep your answer to the point without adding any unnecessary details in order not to compromise your professionalism.

Consider the Following Options to Explain Your Termination:

“Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to translate the product’s value to our clients. Now I realize that the job wasn’t right for me and I would love to grow in the field of XYZ.”

“I didn’t have all necessary skills to succeed on the role, so now I consider such career opportunities where I can apply my strengths that include the following…”

You have to explain an interviewer that you learned from that lesson, tell how you can apply it in the future and assure them it will not happen again. Show that you have a good attitude towards your past employer.

How to Explain Being Laid Off?

The layoff is always out of our control. It can happen to anyone and it doesn’t depend on our skills or performance. Companies can reorganize, lose money or merge. It has nothing to do with your professionalism and expertise so, in fact, it’s not your fault.

Consider the Following Options to Explain the Layoff:

“After our company was restructured, it had an impact on my role and that’s why I got laid off from work.”

“The business had experienced some serious financial hurdles and these changes caused the lack of resources to sustain my position.”

To explain the situation you should specify that you got laid off and mention the reason. Then you should tell details about your great job performance and show that you were a good employee.

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How to Explain Long Unemployment

If you were unemployed for a long period which is more then six months, it’s also a risky situation and you can be in trouble. The longer you stay unemployed the less attractive you can get to employers.

But once you have an interview, all you have to do is to convince HRs that you are a worthy candidate and your long-term unemployment is not a problem and it’s not reflected on your image as an employee.   

Don’t lie about unemployment or victimize yourself. Focus on the things and skills that you have mastered during your break. And start explaining why you are a perfect fit for the position you have applied for.

The Best Way to Explain Being Unemployed for 6+ Months

Wrong: “My company folded so I left my job and stayed unemployed for eight months. No one was hiring and I couldn’t find the right job opening for me. During this time I took a good rest. I think I deserved a vacation.”

Right: “It was hard for me to find new employment after the company downsizing. So I took the opportunity and spent this time improving / learning new professional skills such as …”

So now you are fully prepared for the future interview. We wish you good luck with your job hunt and we believe that you will be able to communicate the reasons why you have left your job and at the same time make employers believe that you are a perfect candidate for a new role.

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