How to explain being fired in an interview (with examples!)

Being let go from your job is never an easy experience. What’s worse is being made to re-live it in every job interview when trying to find new employment. It can be extremely difficult to answer the question ‘why were you fired?’ without any practice or guidance. So, we are here to help you clear your mind and get ready to answer that dreaded question.

Be honest

There are many reasons someone gets fired. It could be along the lines of redundancy and cut backs, it could be personal performance/behavior, or it could have something to do with bad relationships.

Obviously, some of these circumstances are a little easier to explain than others. But being honest is always applicable – you don’t want to be caught in a lie. Here are some example answers for each context:


  1. “Although I had survived a few downsizings at my previous organisation, I didn’t make it last time. It’s unfortunate, but perhaps a blessing in disguise so that I can continue to grow in a new company.”
  2. “Unfortunately the company was making cut backs. Because I was only there for a short amount of time, I was on the first list to go. I’d like to note, my performance was going well, however I probably didn’t have enough time to make a prominent impact. But I’m more than ready to get back to work and make a difference at a new organisation.”

Poor performance

  1. “I will take ownership over the fact that I let my personal life obstruct my work life at the time. This effected my performance. However, I’m no longer dealing with those issues and have learned during that process how to separate the two aspects of my life so not to make the same mistake in the future.”
  2. “I was mentally disconnected from my job due to being unhappy in the role. Although I wish I had left on my own accord, this is the push I needed to go after what I really want. I am ready for new challenges and the opportunity for more career progression so that I can truly add value and purpose to my new workplace.”

Negative relationships

  1. “My boss and I struggled to get along. We both tried to overcome our differences but at the end of the day it was a clash of personalities. I’m looking forward to moving on and building strong relationships with a new team.”
  2. “I think I committed to the job too early without doing proper research concerning company culture. I’ve learnt from my mistake and am hoping to join a company where I can help build great teams who are organized, supportive and passionate.”

Focus on improvement

As you can see in the above examples, we always end on a high note. We want to focus not on why you were actually fired but rather what you learned from the experience and where you aim to go. Show passion, enthusiasm and logic about wanting to do better. Highlight factors that can share your great work ethic and personality.

Don’t get emotional about it

Thinking about getting laid-off can sure be an emotional fire-starter, however it’s important that we keep our cool. There is no need to get emotional as this will often lead to complaining, bad words about a previous employer, raising your voice and just generally looking a mess, all of which are not ideal behaviors. You want to appear professional and ready to go forward without anger. No one wants to hire a grumpy person with a grudge against their ex employer.

Practice your answer

To ease the nerves about being asked this question, practice your answer! This is one sure question with one sure answer. Make sure you know it back to front, use the right words and tone of voice. Making sure you know your answer will also help keep the emotion out of it. Practice enough so that it become monotonous to say.