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Most people experience at least one involuntary termination in the course of their work histories, but it's never easy to explain a termination to a new potential employer. Oftentimes, careful and sensitive rewording and description of the situation surrounding your termination will help employers to sympathize with your situation and see that you are still capable of being a fine employee in spite of a negative past experience.
Refer to being laid off if you were. If you were let go due to a company's financial inability to keep you or because a restructuring eliminated your position, describe these reasons. New potential employers understand that a layoff is not a reflection of your abilities as a worker, just an example of bad luck.
Describe a hostile work environment in concise terms. If you were fired after experiencing personality conflicts with your employer under conditions that you think were clearly unfair, write that your position was “ended due to personal conflicts and a hostile work environment.” Please note, however, that it's a bad idea to describe more than one termination in these terms, as it will highlight the fact that you are the common factor in several tense situations. It's also a good idea to have a witness, such as a co-worker, who can corroborate your statements.
Say the your employment was “ended by the employer due to mismatch of abilities and position.” If you lost the job simply because it wasn't right for you, most employers will be sympathetic to this situation, especially if the position you lost is clearly very different from the position you're applying for now.
Write “position lost.” If you lost your job due to a temporary mistake on your part, it's often best to phrase this using language that indicates that you recognize your mistake and won't repeat it. For example, if you lost your job due to a poor performance caused by stress in your life, write, “position lost due to personal stress factors present at that time.” You can clarify this in the interview, but be sure to explain that you know why the problem happened and how to keep it from happening again.
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- "An Introduction to Job Applications," by J. Michael Farr and Susan Christopherson; JIST Works; 1999