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.

About Lynn Dessert (440 Posts)

Lynn Dessert is an ICF trained certified NLP Coach specializing in Executive Career coaching based in Charlotte NC. She works with individuals and organizations to maximize personal effectiveness skills—a cornerstone to career advancement. Lynn is the author of What To Do After Being Fired and The Secerts to Successful Job On-Boarding. Start your discovery process by contacting her at 704.512.2852 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.

  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.

    • says


      In this article I talk about my eBook: What to Do After Being Fired – it is a resource that will help you develop what to say. You have a tricky situation given that you have a claim. Another alternative is to work with a career coach to word your answers carefully.

  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.

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