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Written by Charlotte GraingerCharlotte Grainger

What should I put as the reason for leaving if I was fired? Read our expert guide now

9 min read
What should I put as the reason for leaving if I was fired? Read our expert guide now
Artwork by:Kate October
The worst has happened and you don’t know what to do next. Check out our guide on how to start applying for new jobs if you’ve been fired.

When your boss calls you into their office and asks you to shut the door behind you, you know that the writing's on the wall. Being fired hurts — it knocks your ego and may leave you feeling worried about your professional future. However, it’s not always the disaster you imagine. Hiring managers don’t look as unfavorably on candidates who were let go as they do on those who jump ship. Yes, with the right advice, you can get back on board.

Understanding what to say when you get fired from a job is the first step in this process. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Here at Resume.io, we have everything you need to boost your career. In the following expert guide, we will be covering these topics: 

  • What to put on an application for the reason for leaving the job if fired
  • How to say you’ve been fired in your cover letter
  • What to say at a job interview if you’ve been fired
  • Seven reasons for leaving a job

Working out a plausible story to key to getting past this awkward conversation. Keep your explanation simple and believable. A complicated untruth has the potential to come back and haunt you.

How to say you were fired on an application

Getting let go isn't the end of the world… or the end of your career!

If you were fired, what do you put on applications? That’s a good question. Chances are, the form will include a short previous employment section. You may simply want to give the dates of employment and leave out any reason for your departure. 

That’s one way to go about it. However, if you feel that you want to share that you’ve been fired, this is your first opportunity to do so. Steering clear of the word may help. Pick a better way to say “fired”. For example, you may want to go with “laid off” or “terminated.” 

Don’t worry about being vague here. Your application is only your first interaction with the potential employer. If you manage to progress in the process, you will have other chances to speak to them about your last role. Plus, you can explain more in your cover letter. 

How to answer “Why did you leave your last job?”
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“Why did you leave your last job?” is a classic interview question that should be answered carefully. A prudent response can help you win over the employer and put you on the path to landing the position.

How to say you were fired on your cover letter

As the most freeform part of any application, your cover letter is the smartest place to explain why you were let go. You can go into as much or as little detail as you need here. Whether you get down to the nitty-gritty details will depend on the job posting. Has the employer specifically asked you to include a reason? If not, you can likely breeze over this point. Should they have stated that you need to include this detail, it’s time to go at it.

As always, honesty is the best policy. Trying to disguise the fact that you’ve been fired will get you nowhere fast. Once you’ve written a strong cover letter introduction and led with your strengths, openly state that you were “let go” or “laid off” from your previous role. 

You don’t need to go into too much detail. However, you should include a short and sweet reason for the termination. For example, if you were fired because you didn’t meet your monthly targets, you may want to say that in the most straightforward way. To put a positive spin on this experience, you may also wish to include what you learned from it.

Once you have covered that tricky topic, be sure to leave things on an optimistic note. You may want to highlight why you’re drawn to this new company specifically or say what you hope to achieve in the future with them. Your cover letter gives you the chance to showcase your enthusiasm for the job at hand. Make sure you don’t waste the opportunity. 

How to say you were fired in an interview scenario 

You’ve made it to the interview stage. Whether or not you’ve disclosed that you were fired yet, the interviewer may want more details. When you’re sitting face-to-face with the hiring manager and they ask why you left your previous role, you need to know what to say. 

Chances are, your stomach drops when you think about uttering the words “I got fired from my job”. That’s natural and, frankly, it sounds overly dramatic. To help you side-step this potentially awkward conversation, here are some simple approaches that you can use: 

Don’t say the F-word

Think of a better way to say “fired”. You might want to go in softer by saying that you were “let go” or “laid off”. The words you use have real power. “Fired” is an inherently negative word and will stick out in an interviewer’s mind. 

Keep your explanation short 

If you’re panicking about what to say, you might end up rambling on. Don’t make that mistake. Stick to the facts and explain what happened in the least emotionally-charged way. For example, if you were let go because the company downsized, just say that. 

Look toward the future! 

As you did in your cover letter, you want to put things in a positive light. Talk about what the experience taught you, how you have adapted your behavior or approach since, and what you want from the future of your career. Hiring managers know that people fail from time to time. That in itself doesn’t matter. It’s what you decide to do next that matters. 

Move the conversation on

You don’t want to dwell on this topic for too long. Think of ways that you can move the conversation on. You might decide to ask the interviewer a question or talk about what you hope to achieve in your next role. Make sure that you only do this after you have answered the interviewer's question. You don’t want to act like a politician and deflect here.

Seven reasons for leaving a job

New opportunities: Explain that you are seeking new challenges and growth opportunities that align better with your long-term career goals. Emphasize that it's a personal decision to explore different paths in your professional journey.

Career advancement: If you received a better job offer or an opportunity for career advancement elsewhere, you can express your gratitude for the experience gained at your current job and your excitement about the new position.

Work-life balance: Mention that you are looking for a better work-life balance or family-related reasons that are prompting you to consider other options without going into too much detail.

Relocation: If you are moving to a different city or country, this is a clear and understandable reason to leave your current job. Emphasize that the move is necessary for personal or family reasons.

Professional development: If you are pursuing further education, such as a degree or a certification, you can explain that you want to enhance your skills and knowledge to become a more valuable asset in your chosen field.

Company restructuring: In cases where your current company is going through restructuring or downsizing, you can mention that the changes have led you to explore other opportunities that may align better with your skills and interests.

Entrepreneurial beginnings: If you are starting your own business or pursuing a freelance career, you can frame it as a chance to use your skills in a different capacity and grow professionally.

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Winston Churchill, the famous British bulldog in human form, had a few things to say about persistence. He made that pretty clear in a commencement speech from 1941 in which he said,

Key takeaways 

  1. Getting fired can knock your confidence but it’s not the end of your professional life.
  2. You don’t always have to put a reason for leaving a role on your application. However, if you choose to do so, there are ways to soften the blow.
  3. If you make it to the interview stage, you may find that the hiring manager asks you about your last role. Plan ahead and figure out what you want to say.
  4. Follow our expert advice and you might just land your next job in no time!
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