How to Answer “Why Were You Fired” in an Interview

  | 3 min read
have you ever been fired

If you have ever been fired before, you know too well how difficult explaining your situation in your next interview. Being asked why you were terminated is one of the most challenging interview questions and could throw you off guard if you are not adequately prepared.

Here is how to answer the question, “Why were you fired?’

Understand What the Interviewer is Really Looking For

have you been fired

Aside from the circumstances surrounding your dismissal, your prospective employer also wants to find out how you cope in the face of adversity. Of course, they would like to confirm that you weren’t fired for gross misconduct like stealing and that you will not also become a liability to them too.  However, most importantly, they want to see if you are able to be accountable for your mistake and take responsibility and that it is no longer an issue.

Considerations When Talking About Your Dismissal in an Interview

why were you fired

Practice your response

You need to get comfortable talking about getting fired. Practice talking about it till you are comfortable talking about it without feeling emotional or embarrassed. Go to the interview prepared to explain the situation. 

Don’t Lie

Resist the temptation to downplay your firing into a layoff. Chances are, the truth will rear its ugly head sooner or later and you could actually get fired again from your new job. Even if you don’t get fired immediately the relationship will be ruined. 

Keep it Brief 

Don’t dwell on the discussion going on and on about how the situation and how it ruined your life. This is actually the reason why you should practice what to say as suggested above. Because not only does it help you know what to say, it also helps you get rid of any underlying emotions.

Avoid Using the Word ‘Fired’

Bear in mind that you are in an interview and you are supposed to be selling yourself. While it is a fact that you got fired, you do not need to keep throwing the negativity into the conversation. Instead, use words like ‘Let go’.

Be Strategic in Interviews

Mostly, being let go or getting fired usually has to do with a mismatch in what you have to offer and what a business needs, your way of working or mismanagement of expectations and performance. It could also be squarely on you. You were lazy or not serious with your work, or just a dent in your character.

why were you fired

The best strategy here is to keep your answers honest, short and to the point. At the same time, tailor your responses to fit your interview situation and place you in a positive light. 

Below are phrases to start off;

  1. Being let go was a blessing in disguise for me. I now have an opportunity to explore jobs better suited to my qualifications and skills. My skills are more suited for this industry because of XYZ.
  2. My role wasn’t working out, so my then boss and I agreed that I should seek a more-suited role and industry, and here I am.
  3. I was desperate for work and took the first one that came my way. When they let me go it made me realize that I need to choose something I am passionate about. That’s why I am here.



Doreen Mueke
Doreen is the Senior Content Marketer at Ringier One Africa Media.