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Interview Questions (and Answers) If You Were Fired From Your Last Job

Interview Questions (and Answers) If You Were Fired From Your Last Job

Be honest and emphasize the positive


By the Monster Career Coach

Getting “fired” is different than being let go or getting downsized “without cause.”

The term “fired” is a legal word that means you’ve been terminated from a job because you did something inappropriate that the employer has decided falls into one of the following categories:

1. Serious Misconduct - such as theft, assault, dishonesty

2. Habitual Neglect of Duty or Misconduct - even after you’ve been warned and helped

3. Conduct Incompatible With The Employee’s Duties - including competing with the employer or wasting excessive time at work

4. Willful Disobedience To An Employer’s Order

Below you will find some of the typical questions an employer might ask a job seeker who has been fired for cause. A few potential responses for each query are listed in bullet-point style. See which answers best apply to you personally. If you choose to use one or more of the suggested replies, be sure to customize them to your own specific situation, and stick to the truth.

Easier Question

Question 1: Why did you leave your most recent job?

Possible Answers:

Actually I left involuntarily, being let go with cause, an unfortunate situation since my overall performance was just fine and I have a number of very positive references.

Harder Questions

Question 1: Are you saying that you were fired? For what reason?

Possible Answers:

The reason is actually pretty straightforward, I…

  • was late more than I should have been
  • didn’t get along well enough with my new boss
  • was given an unfair workload after my colleague resigned
  • disagreed with company policy I felt was unethical
  • some other reason that your employer gave you
…and have learned the following from my experience, so that I won’t repeat that error…(explain here what you’ve learned so it sounds like a positive thing, or provide a legitimate excuse for the behaviour that led to your dismissal)


Question 2: Since you’ve already been fired once, how do I know you’re not going to be a “problem employee” if I hire you?

Possible Answers:

  • You can see from my extensive work history that this single incident is the only time I have ever been let go for cause
  • As I explained briefly, the circumstances were exceptional and I’ve really learned a good lesson; now I know better how to handle these types of situations
  • I am a loyal, reliable employee and will work hard to prove this to you, as my many references will tell you

What NOT To Say

If you were fired from your previous position, there were likely some strong emotions involved when you received the news of your dismissal. You’ll want to make sure that if there’s any lingering negativity it doesn’t spill over into your current job interviews.

This means biting your tongue so that you don’t badmouth the employer that fired you. You should also keep your answers short and to the point: if you start to blabber you run the risk of losing track of your thoughts and having some of that residual resentment blurt out.

Lying to an interviewer about why you left your last job may be grounds for immediate dismissal if you get caught later, and it will certainly sink you like a stone if the employer you’re interviewing with at present conducts a reference check and discovers that you haven’t told the truth about your reason for departure.

So stick to the truth, show that it’s been a learning experience, commit to not repeating your errors, and speak proudly about the rest of your work experience. An understanding employer is ultimately out there for you.

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