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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

Ask an Honest HR Professional: How Do I Explain Getting Let Go During My Search?

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Dear HR Professional,

What’s a better way to write on a resume that you were fired when it wasn’t because of a huge mistake you made? Please give exact reasons or phrases if possible.

Shhh! I Was Fired

Hi Shh! I Was Fired,

Being let go can be a painful experience, but you have the right mindset for finding another job already—focusing on the future. Many employers can overlook this type of setback if you’re able to remain positive and focused on what you learned, your passion for your work, and for the prospective company.

Here are three times you’ll have to explain getting fired and how to do it.

1. When You Reach Out to Your Network

Your network is like gold when it comes to your job search. But how honest and open should you be with them?

Regardless of your situation, you always want networking to feel effortless and organic to both of you so focus on what you can learn from the person and what you might be able to give as well.

Try this message via LinkedIn or email:

Hi [Name],

I hope you’re doing well. I’m new on the job market and using the time to reconnect, learn, and think about my next move. Would you be open to meeting up over coffee (I can come to you) or scheduling a quick call?

As a side note, I attended this [Name of event or conference], and I think you’d be interested in some of the content I learned about.

[Your Name]

And, of course, if you haven’t been to a conference recently, simply use this last line to connect with the person about something: an article you read, a book you’re reading, and so on.

When you do meet up and the conversation turns to what happened in your last role, you can follow the advice in this article outlining how to approach the topic.

2. When You Apply

You can address being let go introduction email, LinkedIn outreach message, or in the intro paragraph of your cover letter. The purpose of this move is to tell a future employer your story before they start guessing why you’re no longer at your company.

It should be positive, brief, and direct. For an intro email try something like:

What I admire about [company name] is [thing you admire] and I would be lucky to have an opportunity to join your team. I’m a highly motivated, smart, and enthusiastic [title or industry descriptor]  with [X years of experience] who was recently let go. I learned a lot from the experience, including [something that suggests the experience helped you grow]. I’d love to join your team as [name of role you’re interested in] and would appreciate the opportunity to interview with you. My resume is attached, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Then include your full name and contact information (phone and email).

3. When You Interview

The best time to give context as to why you’re no longer working with a past employer is during the interview process, likely during the initial phone screen. You’ll have an opportunity to do this in response to any broad question about your past experiences. If you’re asked directly about the brief time you spent at a company, you can say:

“I was unfortunately part of a group of recent hires that were let go so the company could reorganize the department. It wasn’t something I was expecting, but it’s given me an opportunity to take time to reassess what I’d like to do moving forward. The reason I’m so interested in your company is because I’ll have the opportunity to [insert your work function/passion] which is something that really motivates me. If you’re interested, I have a number of professional references who you could speak to about my performance at a time you feel is appropriate as well.”

It’s important to move past any shame or anxiety you’re feeling about losing your job. If you can project a confident attitude and show up prepared for any and every job-search event from an informational interview to the final interview round, the focus won’t be on what happened over there—it’ll be on what you’re bringing to the table now.

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Credible Career Coach in the subject line.

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