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You may feel that seeing the word "fired" on an employment application will make the recruiter toss it straight into the garbage. While terminations are tough and you might be embarrassed about admitting that you were fired from a previous job, remember you're not the only one who has had to say that you were let go. Communicating your qualifications and skills and explaining what makes you a suitable candidate are more beneficial than finding a better word for "fired."
One of your challenges is finding a better word than "fired" that will fit into the the field that asks why you left your previous job. Given the limited space you are given for explaining your departure, sometimes all you have room for is "fired," although you might prefer "terminated" or "discharged." The term "let go" might sound better, but that's merely a colloquialism.
Room to Stretch
If the application form does give you a chance to explain, consider whether you really want to do that. You certainly don't want to give an explanation that lays blame on the employer or implies that you believe you were wrongfully discharged, because employers aren't interested in hiring potentially litigious employees. If your application suggests that you are seeking redress for your previous employer's decision to fire you, you might never get called for an interview. In this case, don't give details about your termination. Leave that for the interview – if the interviewer even asks.
If your resume is the only form of a job application you're required to submit, it's a no-brainer that listing "fired," or any synonym thereof, is unnecessary. Unless a potential employer specifically requires it – and few, if any, will ask you to state on your resume why you left your previous job – don't use up valuable space. Your resume should contain your places of employment, location, position, brief description of your duties and a couple of achievements or accomplishments of which you're most proud.
Answering Difficult Questions
Telling a future employer why you got fired is a difficult – and perhaps awkward – question to answer. So during the interview, stress what you gained from being terminated. Be prepared with a solid response to a question like, "Why were you fired from your last job?" You could say, "Regrettably, I lost my job because I didn't have the adequate skills set. But after my termination, I worked diligently to improve my skills so that I can contribute to the success of my next employer. I have a lot more confidence now, and I know I can perform well in this job."
Remember that just because your job application says you were once fired, it doesn't automatically disqualify you from being hired for another job. Volunteer an explanation about how you have improved since your termination and new skills that you acquired between the time you were fired and the time you're ready to get back into the workforce.
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Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.