Job Interview Advice – What to Say if You Were Let Go From Your Last Job

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This week, Ashley Hoover, Market Manager for Los Angeles shares her advice for job candidates who have been let go from their previous position.

A good interviewer will invariably ask why you left your previous job. It can be a difficult question to answer, so this week I’ll cover a few important points to consider when preparing for your interview.

Admitting past mistakes can be tricky, and it can sometimes seem hard to frame termination in a positive way. That being said, there are certain ways to approach the subject that are definitely better than others. To help you tackle such a difficult subject, I’ve compiled the following useful tips:

Don’t lie.
If you didn’t leave on a high note, it may be tempting to simply lie about your reason for leaving. Still, this is likely to backfire more often than not; the last thing you want the interviewer to suspect is that you can’t be trusted. Interviewers tend to have a knack for reading people and spotting lies, so you’re generally better off finding a way to cast the experience in a positive light than say you left on your own terms.

Learn from your mistakes.
Employers know people make mistakes. The important thing to prove is that you’ve learned from them and demonstrate a solution to past problems. For example, if you were fired for being late too many times, you need to prove that you can be dependable. Maybe you can explain that you now use a system of alarms and reminders to stay on time. If you can, find a way to demonstrate a recent track record of punctuality. When you have a documented strike against you, you need a strong counterexample that speaks to your improvement.

Finish positive.
You never want to linger too long on a negative statement during an interview. Being fired is obviously not ideal, but maybe it allowed you to grow personally or professionally and discover better opportunities. If your performance wasn’t as good as it could have been, say so. But don’t stop there; you’ll want to reflect on a time when you were a star performer and what you learned from the experience to ensure you repeat your successes and not your mistakes. One useful approach is the PNP formula, or “positive, negative, positive.” Just like it sounds, using this formula means opening with a positive statement, adding the negative component, then finishing with another positive statement. For instance, you could say something such as, “Although I was one of the top performers in my team, the company elected to outsource the entire department to India. It’s really too bad, because a lot of people told me that I do better work for a fair price.”

Look forward.
It may not be wise to brush off being fired or suggest that it wasn’t a big deal, but you’ll want to show that while you’ve learned from your past, you don’t want to dwell on it. Make it clear to your interviewer that you’re eager to redeem yourself and do a good job. It can be a bit of a challenge to balance sounding indifferent to past failures and seeming fixated on mistakes, but enough practice should get you to that happy medium.

Want even more help with your job search? At Workway, we do our best to give candidates every possible advantage in their quest for career opportunities. If you think you may be interested in learning about all that we have to offer, register on our website at