How to explain termination in a job interview?

21 Oct 2022

To explain termination in a job interview can be stressful. There is no easy way to do it and the fear of your prospective job interviewers rejecting you is floating in the air. However, it is important that you learn how to do it the right way. This is because your prospective employers can cross-verify from your previous company on the reason for termination.  

It’s good, to be honest with the interviewers and let them know the truth, however, it’s a challenge to know what is the right thing to say and what not to say. You do not want to jeopardize your new position, so it’s important to know exactly the right balance and how to deliver the news in a professional manner. 

Here is how you can explain termination in a job interview. 

Keep it simple

Make sure that you do not elaborate unnecessarily on the reason for termination. Keep your answers brief, so that you can quickly move on to other topics in the interview. This doesn’t mean that you quickly brush past it in an abrupt manner, this can give your interviewer an impression that you are trying to avoid the topic. Answer any question that comes your way, but be brief and honest.

Do not blame

Do not blame your previous employer or disparage them in any manner. This doesn’t sit well with new employers, because this makes them think that you will speak negatively about them in the future as well. Pointing blame is a big no when it comes to speaking about job termination. 

Say it before they ask

One way to avoid the awkwardness of bringing up a job termination in an interview is by bringing it up yourself. This can help in getting past the elephant in the room, and addressing it when it has to be. This can also give a positive impression on your new employer that since you are bringing it up yourself, you are not ashamed of the result but have learned from it. 

Don’t say ‘fired’

Avoid using the word ‘fired’, because this can impact negatively on your job interview. Say words like ‘let go’ or ‘the job wasn’t the best fit’ and ‘terminated’—these tend to put across the same meaning in a better light. Try not to use words that can disqualify your application, and never imply that you have a lack of skill required for your new job. 

Be positive

Try and bring up a personal anecdote on why the job went wrong without talking about the skills you didn’t have; instead, try and bring up the things that you are good at, and what you have learned from the termination. 

Ultimately, be positive about the entire scenario, and try to sound confident while you deliver the news to your interviewers. 

For instance, try saying, “I was terminated because I had a restricted knowledge on (computer application), however, I have an efficient mastery over languages Python and C++, which I can use for (new position).” 

There are other reasons for employee termination such as downsizing and layoffs—which ceases the entire termination from being your fault entirely. Or that is how the stigma is. Downsizing is unpredictable, and termination through layoffs can come as a surprise. Try and explain to your new employee that you have learned from the experience and have grown since then. You have to reevaluate your strengths and weaknesses and find out what you are good at. 

Your new employer would not care for your termination if you can prove to them that you have moved on and that you have bettered your previous performance. Therefore, chin up and try to put across the termination in a positive light, with no awkward words. All the best!

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