But, what if your last employer fired you from your job? What do you say, especially if your employer fired you for misconduct, poor job performance, or some other undesirable reason in the eyes of potential employers?
Unfortunately, there's no magic, canned answer, leaving you with essentially three choices.
Explaining to Potential Employers that You were Fired from a Job
1. Tell your side of the story. Instead of writing on job applications that you were fired, you might try writing something like "Prefer to explain in interview." Then tell the truth as you see it, but only if asked.
Be careful not to criticize your former employer, except only as absolutely necessary to tell your side of the story. If relevant, admit your mistake, show remorse and indicate that you're a different person now.
2. Tell a white lie. For example, you could say something like "It wasn't a good fit, so my boss and I mutually agreed to end our employment relationship." The shorter version for job applications might go something like "Mutually-agreeable employment termination" or "Prefer to explain in interview."
3. Tell a blatant lie. Sorry, but you're on your own for this one!
What you say about getting fired from a job is ultimately up to you. But, natch, number 1 is the ethical way. Some interviewers will respect you for telling the truth about getting fired. Better yet, they might even empathize with your side of the story, especially if they've been fired too or were forced to fire employees who they really didn't want to fire.
But be aware that number 1 might not get you to the interview, as it will be obvious that you're sidestepping the job-application question. Even if it does get you to the interview, it might not work well if your side of the story is just as bad as your former employer's.
So, you might be tempted to resort to number 2 or 3, to have any hope of landing a new job. However, before doing so, be aware that lying on a job application is likely "good cause" legally, for an employer to fire you yet again. Also be aware that your former employer might spill the beans during a background check.
It's a myth that it's generally illegal in the USA for employers to truthfully say that they fired employees. Many states have laws that protect employers from liability in defamation lawsuits, for disclosing truthful information about job performance and reasons for termination.
Subsequently, chances are good that your former employer can "legally" say that you were fired from your job. Your former employer might even be permitted to honestly say why you were fired from your job. On the other hand, many employers take the safe route anyway, by refusing to answer questions about whether or not they fired the employees in question and why.
However, background investigators know that employers might be concerned about liability, despite laws that protect them for speaking candidly about fired employees. So, background investigators have clever ways of asking questions that make employers feel more at ease.
For example, instead of asking "Why did this person leave your company?", they might ask "If given the opportunity, would you rehire this person?" A simple "No!" limits liability, while indicating to the investigative minds that you were fired from your job or at minimum, burned a bridge when you quit.
With all this mind, you might contact your former employer's HR department, your ex-boss, and anyone else involved in the decision to fire you from your job, to express your concern about landing a new job and to ask what they'd say during a background check. If they say that they won't spill the beans, then you have options.
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