Don't get burned during your first interview after getting fired.

Your first job interview after being fired can be intimidating. You probably think you have no chance of getting the job — who wants to hire someone that has just been canned? You are probably nervous about how to answer when the recruiter asks about it. Being asked about why you were terminated is one of the most challenging and intimidating interview questions to face.

First off, don't panic and don't be embarrassed; people get fired from their jobs every day. These people go on to find new jobs, and you will find another job, too. So, don't beat yourself up or doubt you'll be getting a job after being fired. Remember all of the good you have accomplished in your career.

You will (without a doubt) be asked to explain being fired so be prepared to discuss it during an interview. If you were the recruiter, wouldn't you want to know? Don't worry; you got this. Your answer could even help you land the position if done correctly. 

So, what is the best way to respond? These tips will help you maneuver through the dreaded question and help you with getting a job after being fired.

Honesty is the best policy

There is no easy way to explain to a prospective employer that you were fired from your previous job. The best approach is simple: Be honest. Tell the truth and be transparent with all of your answers. The worst way to handle the question is to lie about it.

Lying is like a forest fire; it spreads, with one lie leading to another and another. There is a chance that your potential employer will find out about the lie — and no one wants to hire a dishonest candidate. Truth has a funny way of always coming out, so don't let it cause you to get fired again.

While you should absolutely be honest when you explain why you were fired, you do not have to give every nitty-gritty detail about the situation. Keep your answer high level, explaining the circumstance briefly and moving on. The last thing you want is to draw extra attention to the situation. 

Here's an example of how to answer honestly:

"After some personnel shuffling, the job was no longer working out. So, my boss and I agreed that it was time for me to move on to a position better suited to my skills. I'm excited to get back to it."

Leave emotion out

Resist the urge to badmouth your previous employer. Even if you believe you were wronged, remaining objective and not placing blame are key. As much as it may pain you, stay positive and avoid saying anything negative about your previous boss or company; it will only make you look distasteful and defensive.

The recruiter and hiring manager are more likely to side with your previous employer if you start to play the blame game, as well. Start and end the conversation on a good note. The employer is evaluating if you will be a positive addition to his team, and no one likes a whiner.

Here's an example of how to answer:

"In being let go, I have certainly found some silver linings. I am excited to have the opportunity to find a job that's better suited to my qualifications and interests."

Show that you've learned

Take responsibility for your part of the situation; there are always two sides to every story. Even if you feel as if you were the victim, your actions had something to do with it. Remain mature and professional by showing how you grew personally and professionally through this experience. By answering in this fashion, you will demonstrate strength, self-confidence, and character. The hiring manager will love to hear that you turned a negative situation into an asset.

Nobody is perfect — not you, not the recruiter, and not a single employee at the prospective company you are interviewing with. Perhaps even one (or several) of the people you talk to during an interview have been fired in the past. The hiring manager does not expect you to be perfect; they realize that you have made mistakes. The important part is that you have learned from them. Share how much you have grown since being terminated and how you will approach similar situations in the future, using the learning experience as an advantage for your next job.

Here's an example of how to answer:

"When I initially accepted the job, I was desperate for work. After some time and evaluation, I realized I had jumped into the wrong position, and I won't make that mistake again. I now know that I prefer an environment that is team-oriented."

Know your former employer's policies

Before you even start interviewing, speak with your former employer's HR department to get a clear understanding of how the company will be representing the separation. What can you say and what can't you say? Some companies have strict policies about disclosing any information beyond the dates of employment. Violate these policies and your former employee could sue you or take back your severance. 

Practice makes perfect

If you are at all nervous about answering questions on your termination or explain being fired, the best thing you can do for yourself is to practice what you will say. Getting fired from a company is an emotional experience, and it may take some practice to talk about it openly and objectively.

Write down your thoughts, practice in front of a mirror, videotape yourself, or ask someone to give you a mock interview. You can even work with a professional interview coach to master your response. Sites like TopInterview specialize in helping you prep to ace this question. They will also watch your body language and confidence level, helping you practice until you like what you see.

Remember that people get fired all of the time. It does not mean you are a bad employee, and your interviewer will not think poorly of you. It doesn't mean you're never getting a job after being fired, either.

Don't make a big deal out of it, and remember that you are your worst critic. No one is going to judge you for being fired. In fact, most workers will be fired or let go at some point in their careers.

Answer the question with confidence, chalk it up as a learning experience, show the recruiter who you are and what you have to offer. You are a strong candidate. Your termination was merely a speed bump in your career path. Follow these tips and strategies outlined above, and then walk out with your head held high. 

Want more help preparing for your next interview? Check out our sister site, TopInterview.

Recommended Reading

Related Articles: