It's ok if you were fired from a previous job. It happens to the best of us. But should you include that job on your resume when applying for a new one?
Generally speaking, you should only put a job you were fired from on your resume if it's specifically relevant to the position, if it illustrates skills you're otherwise lacking, and if you worked there for longer than 2 months.
If you do, be sure to focus on accomplishments and skills learned rather than your reason for being let go, and don't mention specifically that you were fired on your resume.
In this article, we'll discuss other times you might wish to include a fired position on your resume, when it's better to leave it off, and how to discuss your termination in a positive way to reduce potential negative connotations.
Should you put a job you were fired from on your resume?
The decision to include a fired position on your resume will be different for everyone; there is no black-and-white rule. It will depend on how much other work experience you have, how relevant the position is to the new job you're applying for, and the reason for your termination.
When to include jobs you were fired from on your resume
Just because you were fired doesn't discount all the hard work you did during your employment, and it doesn't mean you can't still include that job on your resume. You should include a fired position on your resume if:
- Your employment lasted longer than 2 months. This avoids leaving any unexplained gaps on your resume.
- You achieved a noteworthy accomplishment during your work. For example, if you were fired from a marketing position where you successfully launched a new product, including the project on your resume would be a significant asset.
- The position is directly relevant to the job you are applying for and showcases industry-specific hard skills.
- The position was seasonal, contract, freelance, or temporary.
- You were laid off for reasons unrelated to job performance, such as company restructuring or Covid-related layoffs.
- You're an entry-level candidate and don't have much other work experience to showcase your skills.
When not to include a fired job on your resume
While it's not always true that being fired from a previous job will negatively affect your future employment options, your resume should always aim to paint you in a positive light. You should leave a position you were fired from off your resume if:
- You were employed for less than 2 months.
- The job has no overlapping skills with your new desired position and is irrelevant to your industry.
- You have a pattern of more than 2 terminations in a row.
- You left your previous employer on bad terms or were fired for a cause related to work performance.
- Your previous employer is unlikely to provide a good reference.
- You have enough other relevant work experience.
Remember, you don't need to include every job you've ever had on your resume. If it's not relevant, or you don't want to discuss it in an interview, simply leave it off and choose a different job to showcase your experience.
I recommend using the tool below to check whether your resume effectively highlights your most notable accomplishments and skills from your previous job, regardless of the reason for leaving that job.
How bad does being fired look on your resume?
Honestly, it doesn't look great, but the trick is all in how you word it. While the term "fired" is never a great addition to any resume, employers know the reason you're looking for a new job is because you left your last one. Leaving a job is not a negative thing, but explicitly pointing out that you were fired on your resume is generally poorly received.
How to avoid negative implications
So, what exactly should you put on your resume if you were fired? The key is to focus on the positive and highlight your skills and experience without dwelling on how the job ended. It's not about lying and trying to pretend you weren't fired, but rather rephrasing and refocusing your termination in a positive light.
Don't write that you were fired on your resume
There is no need to explicitly write that you were fired on your resume. Simply include the name of your employer, your job title, and the dates you were employed in reverse chronological order (most recent first). The reasons for leaving other jobs are not listed on your resume, so there is no need to include it in this case.
Omit the reason you were fired
Generally speaking, never delve into the specific reasons you were fired on your resume, such as disciplinary reasons or negative job performance. A new employer doesn't need to know this. Again, this is not about lying but about focusing on the positive.
You might choose to include your reason for leaving on your resume if it was due to unforeseen circumstances out of your control, such as company bankruptcy or Covid-related layoffs. In this case, mention your layoff in your work experience bullet points in a brief, concise manner, as shown in the excerpt below.
Emphasize skills and quantifiable achievements
Much the same as when listing other work experience on your resume, it’s best to highlight essential skills and accomplishments you gained during your position rather than simply listing roles and responsibilities. Quantify your skills with numbers and metrics to show the positive results of your work and demonstrate impact, and list your experiences in bullet point format to make it easier to scan.
Include industry-specific keywords and tailor your resume to each application. Use a Keyword Finder to generate a list of essential keywords based on the job description and focus on these skills in your work experience bullet points.
Bridge the gap
Resume gaps can leave an employer questioning what you did with your time, so if you do choose to exclude a fired position, bridge the gap by highlighting personal projects, qualifications, or other applicable experiences, you took part in during that time, such as volunteering, online courses, and community service.
Use neutral phrases
A potential employer might ask you about your reasons for leaving a previous job during an interview. This is really the only time you might need to discuss your termination. Try not to explicitly say that you were fired. Instead, use neutral phrases that highlight your desire for change or a misalignment of goals at your previous job.
For example, instead of saying, "I was fired," say, "I left my previous position due to":
- Differences in long-term goals
- A desire for change and professional development
- Underutilized skills
- Project completion
- Company downsizing
- Company restructuring
If possible, don't use the word "fired", "quit" or "let go" as these have negative connotations. Instead, mention that you:
- Concluded your employment
- Decided to leave
- Opted to pursue a different career path
- Went our separate ways
Prepare a good answer
If you chose to include a fired position on your resume, prepare a good answer to the common interview question: "Why did you leave?". Your answer should focus on a positive desire for change, not the negative reason for leaving.
It became clear that the requirements of the role weren't a good match for my skills, so I'm looking for something that better aligns with my career goals.
And it goes without saying, but never bad mouth a previous employer during an interview. Simply mention that you left the position, list some competitive skills you gained, and leave it at that.