How to Discuss Being Fired from Your Last Job and STILL Look Like a Star Candidate

People get fired for lots of reasons. Some are legitimate, based on performance issues, and some are completely unjustified. Regardless of the reason for being let go, there are solid methods for communicating the circumstances without hurting your candidacy with potential future employers.

In fact, many of my clients who were previously “let go” went on to land better positions with a sizable increase in total compensation. One of my clients secured a whopping $60,000 in additional salary after being fired as a result of getting caught in between some ugly corporate politics.

The following are three solid steps you can take to have successful interviews after being fired.

Step #1: Give yourself time to decompress.

This is the most important step you can take. If you have lost your job, you will most likely go through a grieving process similar to other significant life losses we all experience. If you interview prematurely, you may inadvertently “wear your grief” and/or find yourself unable to talk about your last employer with the kind of convincing detachment and discretion you will need to keep interviewers focused and excited about the value you offer them.

What if you need to begin interviewing right away? To speed up your “grieving process” while still honoring that time cycle, take a ceremonial weekend vacation, book a round of golf, take a spa day, or a family picnic by the lake. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s fun and relaxing, because this is your decompression time… just for yourself! Title your outing: “Your Ceremonial Moving On.” This is a physical process that evokes very real physical and mental benefits.

I have seen this “moving on ceremony” work wonders with my clients and I promise it will work for you too. In fact, I have used it myself. When I left my last employer, my husband threw me a congratulatory dinner and I bought myself a big decadent slice of carrot cake, stuck and candle in it, and we spent the evening talking about the future. It was wonderful!

Step #2: Identify your allies.

You want to contact any and all allies you have and had with your last company. These can include past colleagues, people that worked for you, key executives, clients and vendors – anyone that can attest to your strengths, your attributes and anything positive. If applicable, individuals who can diplomatically hint that there were problems beyond your control with your last company can be especially helpful. Remember, references can be provided by lots of other people besides your past “boss.”

You will want to gather as many WRITTEN references associated with this position as possible. If you are in my job search coaching program , you can listen to my audio coaching call on how to get and use jaw-dropping references. This call goes step by step through how to ask for these references, whom to ask and exactly how to use them once you have them (you’ll find that the payoff for you is nothing short of amazing!).

Focus on short, written quotes, and if you are on LinkedIn (you should be), you can ask for endorsements and then use them. Not only does this enhance your LinkedIn profile, but repurposes it as part of a reference page you put together for your “marketing collateral.”

Step #3: Prescript a BRIEF, but clear, statement.

Develop a brief statement about the reason you were fired and practice saying it. You can use it in your upcoming interviews. Keep it short, simple and clear. Here is an example:

“Unfortunately, I had no choice but to leave my last employer.

When I originally took the position, I was excited about ________.

At first blush, it seemed that their recent merger was going well. I had no idea there was such internal animosity amongst upper management. Perhaps in my excitement about the opportunity, I missed the subtle signs. Now I am focusing my attention on moving forward and I am quite excited to be here to talk with you about your corporation’s goals.”

No matter what you say, the secret is to be BRIEF, positive, bold and forward-thinking. Your interviewer(s) will focus on whatever you shine the spotlight on… so keep your attention on them, their challenges and how you can help.

Using these three steps, you can easily turn a situation you may be worrying about into a non-issue. Many who have been fired fear that they will have to make big sacrifices in order to land their next position, but most of the time this is simply not the case. Use the situation to reflect on whatever can be learned from it, use these powerful techniques to minimize any damage, and simply move on!

Mary Elizabeth Bradford is the Founder and Executive Director of and and a past executive recruiter. A thought leader in the career services industry for over 20 years, she holds 5 distinct advanced certifications for senior-level resume writing, online branding and executive-level job search coaching (CERM, CMRW, CARW, MCD, NCOPE). She has been seen and heard in major media including Forbes, Time, WSJ, Newsweek and NBC affiliate stations. She holds 2 CDI TORI awards and is a top tier judge for the elite CDI TORI awards for four consecutive years. Mary Elizabeth Bradford’s elite team of award-winning, certified, top executive resume writers, former top executive recruiters, and global HR executives help many of the world’s premier C-suite, board members and thought leaders secure the transitions and compensation packages they want. She works with clients all over the globe.

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