by Guest Author, Biron Clark
If you’re trying to get a new job after being fired, this article will help you immediately.
As a former recruiter, I’m going to show you how to get hired after being fired, including:
- How to write your resume to get more interviews
- Pros and cons of lying about being fired (and how to decide whether to tell the truth or lie)
- How to build top-notch interview skills and convince a new hiring manager to take a chance on you, even though it didn’t work out with your former employer
- Critical mistakes to avoid when finding a job after being fired
Finding a Job After Being Fired
1. Don’t delay in finding new employment
Being fired can take an emotional toll on you and it is tempting to take some time off and assess the situation.
However, you’ll have less of a gap on your resume if you hit the job market immediately, and beginning to talk to new employers/hiring managers can boost your mood and take your mind off of what happened at your previous employer.
So I recommend taking a week if needed, but then hitting the job search and forgetting your previous employer!
It’s okay/normal that it didn’t work out. I’ve been fired from a previous job, despite now giving career advice, and working as a professional recruiter for years.
It truly can happen to anyone.
Your best option is to leave this behind you and look for that future employer.
This is also a time to evaluate the career path you want, in case you feel like your previous position didn’t offer work that you enjoy.
I was fired from a job that involved tedious accounting work and knew I didn’t want another job like that, so I took that chance to pivot away from my past position.
2. Prepare your resume for job searching
To prepare to find a new job after being fired, you should update your resume.
Include your main accomplishments from your previous position.
You can look back to the job description for the position if needed.
It’s best to write your resume in terms of accomplishments, not just responsibilities.
For example, don’t write a bullet like: “Responsible for training 5 customer service team members”.
Instead, say: “Trained 5 customer service team members.”
Most of your resume should be in bullet format, not long paragraphs. Hiring managers don’t want to read long paragraphs about your last job. They’d much rather see your resume work history in a more skimmable format.
You don’t need to specifically mention being fired on your resume. Just include your former employer and the dates, and plan on explaining the situation in your job interviews.
I’ll show you how to do that coming up soon.
3. Reach out to your network
Having a network will help you in any hiring process and especially when trying to get a job after being fired.
After being fired, immediately start networking and talking to people you’ve known in past positions. Former colleagues, a former boss, etc.
They can all help you get your job application through to new employers if they’re well-connected and if they remember you for doing great work with them.
Think about whether you have a good relationship with any colleagues from your last position, too.
You may have one or two people who could refer you to a new potential employer in the same industry.
Just because the job ended badly for you doesn’t mean that nobody there would help you.
Maybe your old boss and human resources department won’t provide any help (or a positive reference), but someone else will.
So think about who you can contact.
It’s not always easy to convince a new employer to take a chance on you if you were fired from your last job, but having a colleague speak up for you and vouch for your previous work can sway a new employer to make that job offer.
4. Ask for recommendations on LinkedIn
Chances are that you were fired by one person. The good news is that there are probably a LOT of other people out there that know your skill-set, trust you as a colleague, and have recognized your superb work ethic.
Ask your connections for a testimonial on LinkedIn to enhance your social media presence.
Even one or two written recommendations can make a big difference in landing future jobs, and these recommendations stay with you for your whole career!
One note about asking for a recommendation or testimonial: be specific. Don’t simply ask for someone to say nice things about you.
“Hi Bob! You may or may not have heard that I am seeking a new job opportunity. I’m building my presence on LinkedIn to secure my new role. I enjoyed working on the ___ project with you and would appreciate it if you could write a few sentences as a LinkedIn recommendation about my ___ skills. I’m happy to do the same for you, just let me know. Thanks!”
Being specific in your request ensures that you get a written recommendation that shows you in the best light possible.
5. Decide how you’ll explain your previous job loss to hiring managers
The next step in finding a job after being fired is to prepare an explanation for what happened with your previous employer.
You can own up to it and tell the truth, which will gain you some respect from certain hiring managers, but could also cost you a few opportunities.
Being upfront with employers about the fact you were fired is a calculated risk: You risk that they’ll decide not to hire you, but you protect yourself from the risk of them discovering that you were fired during a background check, etc.
You can take the opposite risk, instead, and you can opt to not share that you were fired.
If you don’t want to explain that you were fired, consider saying the company downsized, your role was eliminated, or the company readjusted its workforce, which are all common reasons for job loss.
Saying you were laid off or your position was eliminated suggests a strategic change in the company and not an issue with performance or any misconduct.
If you were fired for gross misconduct or a serious behavioral issue, it may be worth taking the risk of telling a white lie. For most job seekers, however, I recommend simply telling the truth in your interview.
If you do decide to tell the truth about being previously fired, own up to the mistake but don’t dwell on it. Share the basic story and then end on a positive note by sharing the steps you’ve taken to ensure this never happens again.
Many employers will appreciate this honesty, self awareness, and self reflection.
I can’t give you an exact percentage of the time that your previous company will share details about why you were let go from the job, but they usually share very little during reference checks/background checks due to fear of legal retribution.
For example, the receptionist at most employers will just share your job title and the dates you were employed at the company if someone calls to ask about your employment history.
6. Formulate a strategy for your cover letter
Fortunately, fewer jobs are requiring a cover letter these days. Yet, some may still require one.
If a cover letter is required in the application process, then I recommend being consistent with the interview answers you plan on giving.
If you plan on telling a “white lie” and saying that you were laid off or your previous job was lost due to restructuring, then you can briefly mention this in your cover letter.
If you plan to tell the truth in your interviews and say you were fired, then I’d simply leave this out of the cover letter and save that discussion for the job interview.
Instead, focus your cover letter on discussing what you can bring to the position, why their job fits your career goals, how you’d be able to step in and help them immediately, etc.
That’s how to write a good cover letter when pursuing new jobs.
7. Practice discussing your previous employer in the job interview
Once you have a general strategy for how to explain the loss of your previous job, you’ll want to practice explaining this to a hiring manager or other interviewer.
You can practice with a friend/family member, or by recording yourself with your smartphone sound recorder app (every modern phone should have one).
You want to be able to quickly explain what happened in your past job without dwelling on it, and you want to end the explanation on a positive note, as mentioned in Tip #5 above.
That’ll give you the best shot at landing a new job quickly.
Imagine they ask what happened in your last job or why you left. A good sample answer would be the following:
“I was fired from my last position. My performance wasn’t up to par with what the company expected in the highly-competitive sales group I joined, and they let me go two months ago. I sat down after this happened and thought about what had gone wrong, and I came to the conclusion that my organizational skills were holding me back in my career. I was spending too much time each day tracking different tasks and obligations, rather than making more sales calls. I’ve developed a new system to make sure this never happens again based on what I learned. I can tell you about it if you’d like to know more.”
8. Prepare to talk about why you want to work for your next prospective employer(s)
After explaining what occurred with your previous employer, you’ll want to quickly re-focus the conversation on your skills and how they match with this new company’s needs.
When someone is fired there’s a tendency to panic and apply to every job out there (and be willing to accept just about anything too).
Here’s the problem: Employers don’t want that in a candidate. Companies want to hire someone who is being careful and selective in their job search… because that person is more likely to stay long-term in this new job and give maximum effort.
So after you’ve explained why you got fired and what you’ve done to make sure it never happens again, pivot the conversion and show them why you want their specific job.
Example of how to re-focus the conversation on their job after you explain being fired:
“I wanted to apply here because I’ve heard from a few colleagues that the opportunity to grow as a salesperson is tremendous because of the training and support from managers. I’m committed to growing my sales career. In fact, sales positions are the only type of job I’m looking for. So that’s why I wanted to find out more about this specific opportunity.”
If you follow these steps, it’s going to make a massive difference in how you perform in job interviews after being fired from a previous job.
Getting fired is tough, I know as well as anyone because it’s happened to me.
But if I had taken this advice instead of trying to hide it and cover it up, I would have found a job much faster.
That’s why I suggest this method every time someone comes to me for help with a job interview after getting fired by any previous employers.
9. Further interview questions to practice after getting fired
I explained how to answer interview questions about why you lost your previous job and why you were fired above.
But it’s also a good idea to read and practice other common questions you’re likely to hear.
So study these specific questions to give yourself an even better shot at getting a job after being fired:
- Why did you apply for this position?
- What makes you think you can do well in this job?
- What do you need to improve?
- What are your work strengths and weaknesses?
All of the above are questions you’re likely to hear when interviewing for new jobs and can be the difference between a job offer and a rejection in your job interview.
10. Drop hints that your job hunt is going well
Hiring managers or a human resources person might ask directly how your job search is going or which other companies you’re interviewing with. When you answer these questions, it’s important to sound optimistic and upbeat.
You never want to sound like you’re struggling to get new opportunities/interviews, losing hope, or having no success in finding employment.
You don’t need to lie and say you have job offers (or other interviews) when you don’t. But when employers ask, “How is your job search going so far?” you can say something like this:
“My job search has been going well so far. I’ve been getting some great responses from companies I’ve applied to, and I’m starting to narrow down the choices and go on interviews now. It’s still early in the process… but I’m optimistic so far.”
It’s okay to tell a white lie, and my favorite is what I used above… saying you’re still early in the process and just starting to get some interviews.
This will help you a lot in your first few interviews after being fired… and it’s probably true (you’re just starting to talk to companies, etc.)
And if the interviewer doesn’t ask directly about your job search, you can still drop hints.
For example, earlier in the article I shared that you can boost your odds of finding a job after being fired by being ready to name specific reasons why you want to work at their company.
Now after you tell them why you were interested in working in their company, you can drop a little hint that you’re an in-demand candidate by saying the following:
“…In fact all the companies I’m speaking with right now fit a similar mold… mid to large sized organizations known for having great sales cultures.”
When you do this while answering interview questions, you’re showing them that you know a bit about them, they fit what you’re targeting, and that you’re getting attention from other companies and you’re not desperate.
Conclusion: How to Find a Job After Being Fired
We’ve covered tips for how to get a job after being fired, plus how to interview after being fired, including specific questions and how to answer them.
The tips above will help you draw attention to the positive aspects of your background/skills so you can land a new job faster.
Remember that you don’t need to share all the details and circumstances surrounding the fact that you were fired.
If you’ve read the tips above, you know how to be strategic and choose what to share (and not share) in the job interview.
Everyone makes mistakes but you can get hired after being fired. I hope you’ve found this article helpful.
Need more job search advice?
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About the author: Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.