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How to Avoid Telling an Employer You Were Terminated at Your Last Job in an Interview

by Ellie Williams, studioD

While you don’t want to lie in a job interview, you also want to avoid words such as “fired” or “terminated,” which are red flags to some employers. If you must address why you left your last job, keep your answer short and simple, focusing on your expectations for the future.

Don’t Volunteer Information

Some employers won’t ask why you left your last job. In this case, don’t bring it up unless the employer does. You’re not lying or misrepresenting yourself because if the interviewer doesn’t ask, the issue likely matters little to her. If you broach the subject, you distract yourself and the interviewer from your shared goal: to determine if the job is a good fit for you and the company. In addition, it’s important to keep job interviews upbeat and positive. If you volunteer negative information you place more emphasis on your dismissal than on your strengths, skills and qualifications.

Say You Went Your Separate Ways

Stress that your departure was a mutually beneficial decision for you and for the company, rather than a dismissal stemming from misconduct or a failure to fulfill your job duties. You might say “After a while it became clear to me and to my supervisor that the position didn’t suit my skills or career goals.” Or say “My manager and I had different expectations regarding what the job entailed, and we decided it was best if I search for a position that took fuller advantage of my knowledge and abilities.”

Explain External Factors

Sometimes you lose your job through no fault of your own. The company may have downsized for financial reasons or merged with another company and eliminated your department. Even if you consistently earned praise at your performance reviews, the company may have had no choice but to let you go. Stress this when you explain your departure to the interviewer. You could explain, “Though I was routinely one of the top 10 salespeople, the company had to lay off several employees to cut costs. The organization let go many of its highest earners, which unfortunately, included me.”

Talk to Your Current Boss

In some cases, supervisors care more about sending you on your way than about disclosing the reasons behind your departure. In fact, they may see it as in their best interests to ensure you secure employment. Talk to your boss or your company’s human resources department and agree on an explanation for why you left. They may be willing to say the expectations and obligations for your role changed because of company restructuring. Or, they might tell other employers they could see you no longer felt fulfilled or challenged by your role.

About the Author

Ellie Williams has been a journalist since 2001. Her work has been recognized by her state's press association and by her local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Williams graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and humanities, with minors in French and theater.

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