Everything in life is an experience. Flopping your first interview–and many others, finally getting it right, and securing a decent job, being promoted or relocated within the company, and eventually also being fired, because you did something stupid, or because the company went bankrupt. Nothing wrong with that in my book, just another learning experience–as long as you really learn from it, and don’t repeat the same mistake again.

But how does an average hiring manager look at the situation? Will they give a chance once they hear that you were fired from your last job? And should you tell them the entire truth, or should you conceal some details? Or perhaps, should you tell them an outright lie?

Answers to these questions are not necessarily obvious, and I will try to explain to you what you should do or say in various scenarios that can happen in the interviews. But before I do that, let me show you 7 sample answers to this tricky interview question.


7 sample answers to “Have you ever been fired?” interview question

  1. Yes, I’ve been fired from my first job. I was young, irresponsible, and I though I could do whatever I wanted at work. I broke some rules of discipline, and actually put my health and safety at unnecessary risk. What’s even worse, I put the health of other employees at risk. They fired me, but honestly, it was the best thing that could happen to me. Because I struggled with money back then and it hit me hard. I understood that I had to approach my work in a totally different way, and oblige the rules. That’s what I’ve done ever since, and I want to do the same thing in your company.
  2. I’ve been fired, because I didn’t meet the monthly sales goals for several months in a row. To be honest, I tried hard. But maybe it just wasn’t the right field for me, or I wasn’t enthusiastic enough about the services we were offering, to close enough deals. But I have no regrets and do not think badly about my manager. I learned something important form this experience–it is crucial to sell something you like personally. Unless it is the case, you will always struggle, because you won’t be confident in your sales presentations, and customers will perceive that. That’s why I apply for a job with your company now. I really like your services, and I am sure I will achieve better results working here.
  3. Yes, I’ve been fired–once. I came drunk to work–once. I should have apologized and stayed home, but I didn’t do it. You know, it was one of those evenings in the club. Nice company, people had drinks, you didn’t want to stay behind, nice girls were around… I know it was a mistake. The first mistake was that I drank, and the second one that I went to work in the morning. But I believe that everyone deserves a second chance. They could not give it to me in my former company, because they had a strict policy about being drunk at work. But I think I deserve a chance somewhere else, and I am ready to prove that I learned from my mistake.
  4. I have never been technically fired, but they terminated my contract once. New management came to the company, they brought their own people onboard, and suddenly there was no place for me in the accounting department. But I can assure you that I took care of my duties, did what I could for my employer. In some cases personal preferences prevail though, and we have no other options than accepting it, and start looking for another employment.
  5. They fired me two times, but I honestly believe it was not deserved. In the first case I failed to meet the goals the managers set for us, but the goals were unrealistic, and half of the workers failed to meet them. In the second case they blamed me from stealing an expensive item from the office. But this was never technically proved, and I didn’t steal anything. Someone simply did not like me, and they placed the item in my bag while I was on the toilet before the end of the shift. The gate-keeper checked my bag and found the item, and that was the end of the story… I was fired the second time. As you can see, I could have concealed these things from you. But I want to be honest about everything. I am neither a thief, nor a lazy person. I was just unlucky twice, and I am sure I’ll do better in my new job, hopefully with your company.
  6. It has never happened to me. I always tried to deliver my best, and I actually often exceeded the expectations of my superiors. They had no reason to fire me. But I am here, interviewing for the job with you, because I feel that I need a change, and do not want to stay with my present employer anymore. I do not feel intellectually challenged in work, and believe that I should try something different at this stage of my professional career.
  7. I was fired, for a simple reason–because I dared to challenge the decision of my direct superior. Let me explain. They proposed certain changes to the logistics in the warehouse, but I knew the changes would not be effective, and would result in longer expedition time. They didn’t want to hear my feedback though, and so I decided to send an email to the plant manager. But that was my mistake. I didn’t know that they were the best friends with logistics manager. They fired me for disobedience, and that was it. But I have no regrets, and I hope to find a job in a company with a different management, one in which feedback flows freely in all directions, company that isn’t governed by authoritarian leaders who aren’t receptive to any criticism from their subordinates. Such companies can’t be successful in a long run anyway.


If you apply for a job in a big corporation, you shouldn’t try to conceal the fact that you’ve been fired before

Big corporations always do their background checks. They will contact your former managers to ask about feedback on your work. I mean, if you were fired, they will find it out. It makes no sense to try to conceal the facts. But it also doesn’t mean that they won’t hire you!

Everything depends on your explanation of the situation. Hiring managers are also people, and also they did some stupid thing in their life, made some mistakes in work. Maybe you got drunk, once, or you were young and irresponsible and did something stupid. But you eventually learned your lesson.

As long as you can convince them that it has been a one-time thing, and it won’t repeat again, and show some regrets about what you did, they have no reason to not give you a chance to prove that you learned from your mistakes…

You can take more risks in smaller companies, stores, restaurants

Smaller places typically do not have sophisticated recruitment processes in place. The interviews are often led by the owners, who are often working 100+ hours each week, trying to keep their business competitive, or at least survive.

These people typically won’t do any background checks–they just do not have time to do it… So if you’ve been fired for some serious breach of discipline, or for stealing something, you can try to conceal the fact. But you should always have an alternative story ready, an explanation why you aren’t working at that place anymore, why you left it.

It can be anything. Maybe you weren’t intellectually challenged, or the job conditions weren’t as advertised, or you simply didn’t fit in, and so you decided to leave…


Technically you do not have to write everything on your resume

If you did something really bad, or something that will be hard to explain, you can try your luck and omit the entire chapter of your life while writing your resume. You will simply include an employment gap on it–which is nothing unusual these days. Again tough, it is important to have some explanation ready.

You can say that you went to travel around the world, or faced some tricky period in your personal life, or experienced some health issues, and that’s why you decided to take a break from work for some time… Of course this will work only if you’ve been with the employer for less than a year.

If you were with them for five years, and then they fired you, it would be difficult to explain such a long employment gap to the interviewers…


Conclusion, next steps

It is generally a bad idea to lie in the interviews, but sometimes you may not have another option. Perhaps you interviewed for other jobs. You got rejected time and again, and have feeling that your past employment history is the culprit. You breached the rules and they fired you, and hiring managers do not like the fact.

If it is a case, you have several options:

  • Try to explain the situation in a different way (one-time mistake, misunderstanding between you and the employer, you learned your lesson, etc).
  • Conceal the fact and claim that you simply left the company. I do not advise you to try this strategy with big corporations though… they will find out the truth.
  • Delete the entire employment chapter from your resume, and pretend that you had an employment gap. This can work in any corporation.

Everyone deserves a second chance, that’s true. But you should opt for an outright lie only in the most extreme cases. What’s more, it’s really important that you learn your lesson. Because you will get fired again, if you break the rules again

Not telling the entire truth in the interviews is a short term solution. If you want to retain your new job, you simply have to get rid of bad habits that led to the termination of your last contract. I hope you can do it and wish you good luck!

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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