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The Best Ways to Describe Firings on a Job Application

by Ellie Williams

If you’ve been let go, you’re probably eager to find a new job as soon as possible and put the past behind you. However, you’ll likely have to revisit your termination when applying for future jobs. Offer a brief, neutral explanation that doesn’t cast you or your former employer in a negative light.

Don’t Volunteer Information

Avoid using the words “fired” or “terminated” in your application. Even if you lost your job over a minor issue or your employer was in the wrong, those terms could prompt employers to eliminate you from consideration. Limit the information you provide on your application and save the discussion for the interview, where you can respond to the employer’s concerns and address the circumstances surrounding your dismissal. Offer a vague explanation such as “seeking a better fit." Don’t lie, however. The company might discover the truth during a reference check and disqualify you. If your boss finds out you lied after hiring you, he might fire you or pursue disciplinary action.

Describe the Separation as Mutual

Unless you lost your job for wrongdoing, it’s often not necessary to delve into the reasons behind your termination. If you didn’t see eye-to-eye with your boss, frame your departure as a mutual parting of ways. For example, “My supervisor and I felt that the position was not a good match for my skills and goals, so I decided to seek an opportunity where I can fully utilize my knowledge and talents.” Or, you can say “My working style was not a good fit for the corporate culture, and we decided it was best if I search for a position that was a better fit.”

Explain Extenuating Circumstances

If you lost your job through no fault of your own, mention this upfront so the employer knows your former boss had no issue with your ethics or your job performance. On the application, state that the company was forced to lay off several employees, which unfortunately included you. Or, say “The company merged with another business, and as part of this process had to eliminate several positions.” You don’t need to defend yourself or provide excessive details in this case, because the explanation speaks for itself.

Avoid Negativity

Never blame your former boss or criticize the company, even if the company was a terrible place to work or your supervisor dismissed you unfairly. Prospective employers might think you’re deflecting blame because you don’t want to take responsibility for your role in the termination. They might also see it as a case of “sour grapes” and fear that you’ll use the same approach if something goes wrong at your new job. Disparaging others also brings up concerns about your ability to work as part of a team and put your ego and interests aside for the good of the company. Keep it neutral.

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