Worried woman contemplating how to answer why were you fired question

Why Were You Fired – How To Answer This Challenging Interview Question

Did you get fired from your job, and now you have an interview where you have no idea what to say when you’re being asked the question, “why were you fired?”

I’m not talking about being made redundant due to restructuring or company closures or anything like that.

No, I’m talking about you having being told to pack up your things, hand in your company belongings, and being escorted out of the building immediately.

In today’s episode, I’m sharing my best tips on how to nail the answer to the “why were you fired” question.

Woman worried about answering why were you fired question in job interview

“Why were you fired?” is one of the most challenging interview questions

Companies normally don’t fire people without cause. So, if this has happened to you, you will undoubtedly face one of the most challenging interview questions.

But just because it happened, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get the job you want. It is perfectly possible to nail the interview and land the job even after having been fired from your last one.

People get fired every day, and they go on to find new jobs. You will get another job too.

What the interviewer wants to know when they ask you the question “why were you fired?”, besides understanding the circumstance of the termination, is how you handled the situation. They want to know what you learned from it. And more importantly, they want reassurance that the reason behind the dismissal is no longer a problem.

Having your employment terminated is an emotional event. If you think it was wrong for your employer to terminate the employment, it can be an even harder pill to swallow.

The worst thing you can do is to let that bitterness sip out during your interview.

So, if you still have resentments and negative feelings about what happened, you must deal with it first. If you want to nail the answer to the question “why were you fired?”, you need to be able to walk into the meeting being calm, levelheaded, and confident. And you need to be able to talk about it without losing your temper.

Preparation is the key to nailing the answer to “why were you fired?”

The key to making sure that you are calm and confident when you answer the “why were you fired?” question, or any interview question for that matter, is to prepare properly for the interview.

The way you answer interview question “why were you fired?” in a stand-out way, is by keeping it short and to the point. And by sticking to the truth. In today’s video, I share examples of how to answer this question if you were fired due to misconduct or under performance. And I also share what you should and shouldn’t do when you answer the question, “why were you fired?”

Let’s dive in!

This is what’s covered in today’s episode:

(If you prefer to read the video transcript; keep scrolling past this section)

[1:00] the first thing you should come to grip with when you’ve been fired and are preparing for an interview.

[2:20] how to answer the question “why were you fired?” (with examples)

[4:44] Do these things to nail the answer to the question “why where you fired?”

[5:21] Don’t do this if you want to nail the answer to the question “why were you fired”?

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Video transcript

CONTENT

Introduction

It’s perfectly possible to land a new job after having been fired
This is the answer the interviewer wants to hear
Best way to structure your answer
4 things you should do if you want to nail the answer
4 things to avoid if you want to nail the answer

Introduction

Did you get fired from your job and now you have an interview where you have no idea what to say when they ask you about it?

I’m not talking about being made redundant due to restructuring or company closures or anything like that. No, I’m talking about YOU have been told to pack up your things, hand in your company belongings and being escorted out of the building immediately.

If that’s you, then stay tuned to find out how you explain that in your next interview.

Welcome to the Career Upgrade. My name is Petra Pearce, and I am a Career Strategist and a Coach. Over the past 20 years, I have worked as a global HR leader in several Fortune 500 companies, helping hundreds of professionals, just like you, to build their careers and maximize their performance. In this channel, I’m sharing insights on job interview questions as well as tips on how to up-level your career. If that’s something you’re interested in, make sure to hit the subscribe button and the notification bell, so you don’t miss out whenever I post a new video.

It’s possible to land the job even after having been fired from your last one

Today we are talking about the question “why were you fired?”. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Companies don’t make it a habit of firing people without cause, so if this has happened to you, you will, for sure, face one of the most challenging interview questions there is.

But just because it happened, it is not mean you can’t get the job you want. It is perfectly possible to nail the interview and land the perfect job even after having been fired from your last one. Here’s how you do it.

The first thing you need to do is to get over the fact that you were fired. What I mean with that is that you want to make sure that you don’t still carry around any negative emotions from that situation. Losing your job sucks, I know, and you may completely disagree with your employer as to why you lost your job. Regardless, the best thing you can for yourself is to accept it for what it is and move on.

People get fired every day, and they go on to find new jobs. You will get another job too. Focus on all the good things you’ve accomplished in your career so far. Think about all the skills and capabilities you have that make you the perfect candidate.

This is the answer the interviewer wants to hear

What the interviewer wants to know, besides understanding the circumstance of the termination, is how you handled the situation, what you learned from it, and that the reason behind the dismissal is no longer a problem.

So, if you still have resentments and negative feelings, deal with it first so that you can walk into the interview with a levelheaded, calm, and confident answer and so that you can talk about it without losing your cool.

The best way to structure your answer

Now, let’s talk about how you structure your answer.

Keep it short and to the point. And make sure you stick to the truth. Talk about what you’ve learned from the situation factually and neutrally. Leave emotions out and as soon as you can, shift the focus towards the job you are interviewing for and how you see this being the perfect next job for you.

If you were let go due to misconduct, you could say:

It was definitely the low point of my career, no question, but it was also a blessing. It made me stop and reflect on the situation, what happened, my responsibility, and I got a chance to deal with it once and for all.

If you were dismissed due to an under performance, say something like:

The job wasn’t working out, so my manager and I agreed that it was time for us to part ways. When I took the job, I was desperate for work, and although I knew it wasn’t the right fit, I took it. It’s a mistake I will not make again.

That’s it. That’s all you have to say about the reason. The rest of the answer should show you’ve learned from the experience and be all about why you are a good fit for the job. You can say something like:

It gave me an opportunity to really think about what I’m after in a job so that I can make absolutely sure that I don’t end up in a similar situation. Which brings me to why I’m so interested in your position and your company. I know your company’s values are X, Y, and Z, which is exactly aligned with my values. For example,…

And then you’ll give a relevant example. I chose values here, but you can do it with a specific job responsibility that is outlined in the description. Or a capability. It may then sound like this instead:

It gave me an opportunity to really think about what I’m after in a job so that I can make absolutely sure that I don’t end up in a similar situation. Which brings me to why I’m so interested in your position and your company. I know you’re looking for someone with experience in X capability, which is what I have been working with for a number of years now and that I really like doing.

Answering the question in this way doesn’t mean that they won’t ask you to further clarify why you were fired, just so that they can be confident that it won’t happen again, but it is a way for you to steer the conversation to focus on the future.

If they ask you follow up questions related to what happened that led you to be fired, remember to keep calm and answer truthfully and factually and try and avoid getting emotional.

Women holding a box after having been fired from her job

4 things you should do if you want to nail the answer to the job interview question “why were you fired?”

Let’s talk about the Dos and the Don’t.

  • Keep you answer short. If you chatter on, you’re running the risk of getting wrapped up in your own story and end up sharing both too much and also start showing resentment. Some interviewer are purposely displaying compassion as a way to get you to talk more freely, so always remember that it’s not a therapy session – it’s a job interview.
  • Be honest in your response.
  • Underline what you’ve learned from the situation.
  • Finish your answer with a future focus by tying it to the reason why you’re interested in their role.

4 things to avoid if you want to nail the answer to the job interview question “why were you fired?”

  • Don’t use the word “fired”. It has a bad association, so make sure to use the words “let go”, or “dismissed”.
  • Don’t lie. Avoid the temptation to bend the truth by insinuating you were made redundant or that you resigned. Let’s assume that you do well and you’re offered the role. When the employer does the background checks, they’ll discover that you haven’t been truthful with the termination. What do you think is going to happen? Not only are you not going to get the job, but you will also have an even more challenging conversation where you’ll have to explain why you weren’t honest in the first place.
  • Don’t blame others. If you’ve been fired, take ownership of your part of it. If there were other people involved, leave their responsibilities completely out of it and focus only on the parts you had control over. If you blame the dismissal on others, even partly, you’re running the risk of the interviewer thinking that history may repeat itself.
  • Don’t sound bitter. Being let go is an emotional event, and if you think that it was wrong for your employer to terminate the employment, it can be an even harder pill to swallow. But the worst thing you can do is to let that bitterness sip out during your interview. So keep your emotions in check and focus on talking about your learning and speak about your forward-looking focus in favorable terms.

If you have watched any of my other videos, you’ve heard me talk about the importance of preparing and practicing your answer beforehand. It’s even more critical when it comes to answering this question.

The more confident and comfortable you are with discussing the termination and the more ownership and responsibility you take for what happened, the more comfortable the interviewer will be. So, make sure that you practice answering this question until it no longer feels awkward or strange to talk about it.

And that’s how you answer the question, “why were you fired?”

The bottom line is that although it is crucial that you prepare what you are going to say so that your answer is short, to the point, true and forward-focused, it is also important to remember that you having been fired doesn’t define you as a person. It was an event that took place in your past, and it’s not a representation of who you are today.

Prepare your answer, leave the emotions at home, and you’re going to be just fine.

If you liked this video, please give it a thumbs up, subscribe and let me know in the comments what your biggest takeaway is from what I’ve just shared with you.

Thank you so much for watching, and I’ll see you in the next video.

Hi, I'm Petra Pearce

I recently pivoted my career from working as an HR leader for over two decades in global organizations and in places like Silicon Valley, Singapore and London, to now devote all my time helping corporate jobseekers land job offers fast by teaching them how to upgrade their interview skills.

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