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What do I say about being terminated?

This is a great question we often get asked by our clients. It’s a touchy subject you want to handle with confidence… Thank you to Terry Wynne, one of our associate certified career coaches, for this article!

Have you ever been terminated from your position?” your interviewer asks you. You may fear this question because you don’t want to have to say, “Yes.” However, you may be confusing the terms layoff, resignation, and termination.

If you were laid off, you have not been terminated. Being laid off from work means the employer could not afford to continue paying your salary or did not have enough work for you to do. When a company downsizes, you may be laid off, and you may be eligible to collect unemployment insurance benefits. If you are asked if you have been terminated and you have only been laid off from previous positions, truthfully answer, “No.”

If you resigned, you have not been terminated. Resigning is when you choose to leave a position by your own choice, or by your employer asking you to either resign or be terminated because the employer wants you to leave the company.   If you choose to resign rather than be terminated, you have not been terminated.   In either of these cases, if you are asked if you have been terminated and you have only resigned (even under duress) from previous positions, truthfully answer, “No.”

If you have been terminated from a position and you are asked if you have been terminated, the best answer is the shortest one you can give – less is best. Without becoming emotional or showing anger, simply say, “I was asked to leave and look forward to a new beginning.” You can add a short explanation such as, “I wasn’t happy in that position and my supervisor and I felt my leaving was best,” or “I wasn’t using my best skills sets and needed to leave and would like to be considered for your opportunity that does use my best skill sets.” If you don’t act upset about your termination, the likelihood is high that your interviewer won’t be upset either. Not getting along with your supervisor is common and so are terminations. No one likes them, but you’re one of many, many people who have experienced them.

If your termination was because you committed an illegal or violent act, consider seeking professional help before seeking another job. If your termination was due to a personality conflict with your supervisor, try not to say anything negative about your previous employers, stick to the facts, and say as little as possible. If questioned about the details, be ready with a one sentence description of what occurred and assure the interviewer that you’re ready to move into a position where you’re needed, can contribute, and are happy.

Hallie Crawford and Terry L. Wynne, Ed.S., LPC, BCC
Job Search Coach

P.S. How do you know if your resume is good? Take this Resume Quiz to find out how to keep your resume out of the trash can.