How to Explain Being Fired and Other Work History Blemishes, Part 1


Having a less-than-perfect work history can be a challenge when job hunting. Learn what to do if you’re not sure how to explain certain aspects of your background.

Experience? Check. Professionalism? Check. Education? Check. Confidence? Check. You have the skills and talents to wow any hiring manager — on paper and in person.  Well, except for that one time you were fired.

Or maybe that time you quit your job. And don’t forget the year when you had four different jobs, each lasting a few months. Or maybe you’ve held the same position at the same company for years and years and years. The rest of your resume is so impressive, surely no one is going to focus on these blips, will they?

It turns out that gaps in your employment history, a litany of different jobs or even job stagnation will jump off the page and leave doubts in the minds of many recruiters and hiring managers. However, if you’re prepared to respond without skipping a beat, you may be able to actually turn these negatives into positives.

What’s At Stake?

First, you need to understand why employers are concerned about gaps in employment and short job stints. They’re not just being nosy. To most people, past behavior is the most reliable predictor of future behavior. If you’ve quit previous jobs on a whim, an employer will think that you’ll do the same at their company. On the other hand, if you’ve worked the same job for an extremely long time, employers will wonder why you never wanted to do anything else, and if this means that you’re resistant to change.

It may seem impossible to prepare acceptable responses to these scenarios, but it is not as hard as you might think. Keep reading to discover job interview, cover letter and resume tips for your particular situation.

Job Loss

If you were fired from your job, it’s best to be honest during your interview. (However, it is not necessary to explain this on your resume or cover letter.) If the separation was a result of your actions, admit your wrongdoing, but then quickly follow-up by explaining what you learned from the experience, or how your circumstance has changed. For example, if you were fired for being late, but at the time, you shared a car with your spouse or roommate, explain that you now have your own vehicle. If you were fired for job performance, you might want to describe how you have developed and honed your skills in that area — if this is relevant to the position you’re applying for.

However, you don’t want to badmouth a previous manager or job. According to research conducted by Robert Half, speaking negatively about a former boss or job is one of the five job interview deal breakers. Although you may have to explain what led to your departure, be sure to answer tactfully without painting others in a bad light.

Part 2 of this blog will offer tips on how to explain multiple jobs or a lack of job variety, so check back next week!

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