Fired: What to say on a job application

What to Do after Being FiredShould I give a detailed explanation on my job application about why I was fired? The answer is NO – that is unless you really don’t want the job! You will have to put down a reason why you left your last job on a job application and if you were fired, then what you put down is really important. Depending on how you explain why you were fired will either spark an invitation for an interview or your job application will be rejected and put into the “do not call” pile.

It is important not to lie on the application as it is a legal document. People have been fired after being hired because they falsified something on their application.

Your reason for leaving your previous company should be short and to the point. This is not the time to try to explain why you were fired and why it was not fair. To be honest, don’t even try to explain why it is not fair at any time during the job application or interview process. You will lose 99% of the time, even if the termination was not justified. Just because there is a space for an answer on an application doesn’t mean you have to fill it out. If it is an online application and it is requiring an answer you can always use:

  • n/a – not applicable
  • Open to discuss at interview

Another way you could answer the question about why you left a previous company is to say you were let go – this could be the result of being fired or laid off. Both of these reasons are considered involuntary terminations. In fact, you could just say you were involuntary terminated. If you say you were let go or involuntary terminated, you will have greater chance of getting an interview because lots of people have been laid off over the last several years. Expect more questions about the involuntary termination in your interview and be ready with a solid and confident answer.

Please note: I get a lot of questions on this post for specific advice. I generally respond to anyone that writes a comment, however, do not expect to receive advice that is 100% relevant to your situation. There is always more to the story and that requires me to work with people individually in a coaching session. If you do not have the funds to work with a career coach, you can 1) research other articles on Elephants at Work and glean an answer that works for you or 2) consider purchasing either of my eBooks, put in a little elbow grease and craft your own answers. Bottom line: making it work takes some kind of investment of your time, money or resources.

About Lynn Dessert (458 Posts)

Lynn Dessert is a certified ICF and NLP Coach specializing in Executive Career coaching in Charlotte NC. She works with individuals to accelerate their career advancement and organizations to fast track leadership skill development. Her career eBooks What To Do After Being Fired and The Secrets to Successful Job On-Boarding give you a roadmap to DIY. Start your discovery process by contacting her at 704.412.2852 today.


  1. Jessie says

    I was not given a clear reason as to why I was terminated. But I know that it was due to an student intern came to me with concerns about the director grabbing her behind and sending her inappropriate text messages. I didn’t know what was going on when she handed me her phone to read a text message he had just sent her. As she did so he was watching from a distance through my glass door. I referred her to her instructor, the coordinator, and the local police department. The next day the coordinator call the director and told him everything the student had expressed to her. The student informed me that the coordinator had called her a liar and told the student that she knew the director personally and he would not do such a thing. I was terminated the following day. So what do I say in my interview?

    • says

      Jessie, the first step is to ask the HR department for the reason or to look at your termination paperwork if they gave you any for the reason why the company has let you go. When you ask the company, tell them you have to put something down on your application that is accurate so you need to know what they will say.

      After that, I would suggest getting my eBook – What to Do After Being Fired. I walk you through what to say and how to say it on your application and during an interview. If in fact, what you state is the reason why – you can work through how to say it. If it is something else, you can tailor your conversation differently. Good Luck!

      • says

        Jessie – I gave you some general steps to take. I do not give out specific advice on this blog because everyone – including your situation is different. I spend hours writing articles that provide people with guidance – not always answers as a courtesy. I excel at what I do because I am thorough and that means asking questions and understanding the circumstances around a situation (more than a paragraph) so that I can provide sound advice. That process takes time – time that my clients pay me for. So…to be blunt, continue to do some research and try to figure out what to do on your own or pony up and pay for advice from a professional (it doesn’t have to me) and invest in your future. Good luck.

        • Kimberly says

          I think you were very profession in your response considering she was ungrateful and rude. That may very well be why she was fired.

  2. Nur says

    Hi Lynn,

    Thanks for the article. My situation is a little different. I am currently employed and have been for the last 6 years, but the employment I had previous to my current employer is where I was terminated. Now I am looking to move on and I am looking for work, but I notice with all the applications I come across I am asked the question, “were you terminated?” Sometimes the application will ask this and not even provide a room to explain the situation.

    All of the applications I have been filling out (online and paper applications) have been very straightforward with this question and leave no wiggle room. The incident of termination is not even related to my current employment. What is the best way to answer this on my application? Do I still put down that I was terminated even though it was some years ago and not related to my last/current employer?

    I was not terminated for anything unethical at all and I’ve learned and grown from that and that has never been an issue again, but still, years later, I’m not sure how to manage this when applying for work now.


    • says

      Yes, you have to state the reason for why you left. I cover it all in my eBook: What to Do After Being Fired – how to say it and what to put down on the application. If you want to talk about your specific situation directly, I have a 90 minute coaching session where I help you work through all your concerns.

  3. Scott says

    I was in a position for 8 months, and then given the option of resigning or being fired, based on my job performance. I chose to resign. Do you have any specific advice on how to address this situation? What about at the job interview? I’m not sure what a good, solid answer would be in this circumstance.

    Thank you.

    • says

      Scott, the truth always prevails unless you are throwing your company or boss under the bus. Everyone’s answer is a little different because circumstances are different. I would suggest getting my eBook What to Do After Being Fired – it walks you through how to have this very discussion. There are a number of exercises in there for you to work on that will help you craft your unique answer. If you are looking for personal one-on-one help, work with a career coach and nail it down fast because that is what will get you back to work sooner.

  4. Jared says

    I was let go for taking medication needed for my ADA protected disability which is not physically obvious. I have filled a claim, but I still need a job. What do I put on an application, and if by the grace of God I get an interview, what do I say when asked.

  5. says

    I agree 100% with your article. I recently had an over the phone prescreening with a potential job applicant. This applicant was so bitter towards the company that laid him off I couldn’t interview him.
    Just for me to learn that his whole division closed. I spent 20 minutes lecturing on interview skills.

    I enjoy reading your articles!

  6. Robin Anderson says

    I was fired from my job for venting on social media about my job person went into another person page to get to my page, copy it and turned it into a manager. A week after I got fired from my job I found out I had breast cancer. So on applications when it ask, Reason for leaving: illness. Do you think this is the wrong answer to put down.

    • says

      If a new employer calls to verify why you left that employer and they said you were let go or fired, your new employer will most likely rescind their offer because they can not trust what you say is accurate.

  7. Lyn says

    I was fired after being employed 6months because one of the supervisors did not like me. He had already tried to get me fired on one previous occasion. A big part of my job is driving truck and safe driving is a high priority. Everyone I’ve driven with has stated I was a good driver and that they had no complaints. I lightly nicked on of the wheel wells turning into a gas station and my partner I was working with told me not to fill an incident report. The supervisor used the incident to get me fired and made it sound like an unsafe driver. What do I put on my job applications when they ask if I’ve been fired?

    • says

      Lyn, Your partner did not do you a favor by suggesting that you ignore the procedures. I would suggest you get my eBook, What to Do After Being Fired to work through the section on how to craft your message for job applications. As I have mentioned in many responses on here, I don’t give out specific advice because it takes more than a quick paragraph to figure it out and that time is reserved for my clients.

  8. chris says

    I was fired in 12-2014 on hearsay that was not true. I went to the unemployment hearing & when my employer with his attorney came & saw me they walked outside then left before the hearing. I testified before the judge under oath what really happened & won . The judge said my testimony under oath weighed more than their hearsay. They said I was fired because of disciplinary regarding my work. the judge in the decree stated that was not true & there was another reason but she was not sure what that reason was. I have applied for 250 jobs since my termination & have been completely honest about it on all of my applications & phone interviews but nothing. I am qualified for the jobs I have applied for and I have won many customer service awards. I really have no answer of why I was fired except people lied & those lies were believed ,what can I say? . I usually say ” I really don’t know” then briefly explain what I just told you .I have my old manager & assistant manager on my side & use them as references . They were shocked that I was fired & said if they had a say I would still be there,btw I was at that job almost 3 years .

    • says

      Chris, as with many of the questions that people ask, yours is complicated. It is important what you say, how you say it to the prospective employer and how you state it on the application to get the interview. I would suggest you pick up my eBook, What to Do After Being Fired to work through the exact wording or read some of the other articles. If you have the funds available, I would suggest you work directly with an career coach to work through the kinks.

  9. Connie says

    Hello Lynn~
    I was let go from my recent place of employment. I will be having an interview with a new company. Here’s the dilemma: I had to had a few more in depth things to my work description (they previously have my resume from another department before I was let go) they were waiting for me to send the new resume. I quickly added all of the in depth items to mail it to them, but forgot to put the let go date on my resume.
    Would you update the resume and send them a new one or would you update it and have it with you for the interview and bring it up (I am sure they will notice it)
    Thank you.

    • says

      Connie, Bring the updated resume with you to the interview. Don’t make a big deal about it, just give to them when you meet them. It should not be a deal killer. Good luck!

  10. Juvetta welch says

    I was fired because, I got sick 4hrs into my shift. I asked my supervisor if I could go home,he said yes. I got to work the next day and was told,””I couldn’t take anymore days off”. I still had 24hrs of vacation time up and he took me to his office took my ID and walk me to the door.

  11. Michelle says

    I was an At-Will senior level manager working for a local municipality for over 8 years. Less than four months after the new executive manager was hired, he fired me referring to my At-Will status. He was my 3rd manager and both previous administrations gave me stellar reviews and merit raises. The city gave me a severance and as Iong as I signed my life away, the option of saying I voluntarily left my position. Prior to this termination, and for almost 30 years, I had never left one job unless I was going directly on to a better opportunity. My old position has not been posted and the rumor is that the executive manager will post it as a different position/title. Several people have told me to say my position was eliminated, but I am hesitant. But, I also don’t know what to list as my reason for “leaving my position”. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

  12. Maria Andrade says

    I was terminated from my job, on of the co employees reported to HR that i had Help a relative with a transaction. This Person used to give me a hard time at work, I related this to my manager , but she never did anything. I started collection unemployment, but they appealed , I appealed too, while in front of judge, my ex manager say that I was a very good worker and that she never had a problem with me. the judge dismiss the claim. I got my unemployment, but still i dont have a job. I am too embarrass to say i was fired.

  13. Allison says


    First off, thanks for the info and articles you have posted. Second, I was “let go” due to tardiness issues (I own it, it was my fault,) my question is what is the best way to explain, when asked, “Why were you let go or Expound on why you were let go,” when it has to do with tardiness?

    • says


      You have to own it. Explain what you learned about the experience and how you plan to be on time. If you need more help on figuring out what to say, I recommend picking up my eBook.


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