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How to Fill Out a Job Application When Fired From Your Last Job

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When it's time to find the next job after getting fired, you need to develop a strategy that will enhance your candidacy. This process begins with the application that many prospective employers require you to complete. How you frame the story of your involuntary exist will determine whether you actually get an interview or whether your application winds up in the "do not call" pile.

Check Your File

Learn how the company is characterizing your dismissal before starting any job search. The more you know, the more effectively you can respond. Call the human resources department to access your personnel file, suggests The Wall Street Journal. To counter the potential fallout of negative information, ask ex-coworkers if they'll provide verbal or written recommendations on your behalf.

Follow All Instructions

Review the application format carefully. Some companies only inquire about your last three jobs, while others focus on specific periods like the last five to 10 years. There's little point in listing a fast food cashiering job that lasted only a few weeks unless you're applying for a similar job, advises CBS Moneywatch career columnist Suzanne Lucas. Include the job if you worked for a longer period -- such as a year -- to avoid creating gaps in your resume.

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Choose Your Words Carefully

Avoid "red flag" words and phrases that raise employers' suspicions. Examples include "fired," "quit" and "personal reasons." Instead, choose alternatives like "seeking a better fit" or "will discuss at interview" as your reason for leaving. This strategy allows you to set up the explanation that you'll give the hiring manager.

Don't Explain Too Much

Don't provide more detail than the employer requires. Setting the record straight is a natural impulse, but it won't help in the screening process -- of which an application is the first step. If you got laid off, write "job ended," and leave it at that. If you're only asked to give dates of employment, fill them in accurately. For questions that don't apply to you, write "not applicable."

Other Considerations

If you still worry about how your application will play out, see whether it's possible to submit your resume first, advises Lucas. If the hiring manager is impressed with your credentials, he'll likely let you fill out the application as a formality after bringing you aboard. Also, remember that employers care more about your recent history -- so a firing or short-lived job that happened long ago is unlikely to carry much weight.

About the Author

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

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