Should You Lie About Being Fired on an Application?

Honesty is the best policy, but you don't need to offer up negative information.
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So you got fired -- you're not the only one. Whether it's your fault, someone else's fault or a combination of the two, getting fired is definitely not something you look forward to talking about. You might want to put it all behind you, but when it comes to deciding whether to lie on your resume or job application, the answer is a resounding "no." Dishonesty can come back to bite you, so try to avoid it -- or get around it when you're applying for a new job.


    If you've chosen to use the "reverse chronological" format on your resume or you're filling out an application that asks you to list your most recent jobs, you should list the job for which you were fired among them. You don't need to say that you were fired. List the dates you worked at the job and your duties, similar to how you'd list any other job. In the best-case scenario, the prospective employer will look at your most recent jobs and won't ask any more about it, thereby erasing the need to discuss your firing.


    During job interviews, be prepared to answer questions about why you left that job. This is a delicate matter, and one that requires calculated honesty. If you were fired because of personnel conflicts, you could say that you were not a good fit for the company. If you left for gross negligence, however, prepare to tell the prospective employer that you made a mistake, but then talk about how you've learned new skills that will help you avoid the same mistake in the future. In other words, take accountability while, at the same time, showing that you've learned something from the experience.

What Not to Say

    Whatever you do, don't delve into a long diatribe against the former employer when a prospective employer asks you about your firing. The prospective employer doesn't want to see you talk badly about her company in the future, so she'll expect you to remain diplomatic about your past employers, too. Another good rule of thumb: keep your explanation about your "leaving" the company short and sweet. The interviewer will be less likely to focus on your firing if you don't focus on it either.


    Another way to show that you were a valued employee, in spite of your firing, is to gather a few key references or letters of recommendation. The person who fired you is not likely to give you a good reference, but other managers or coworkers at the company might. It's also a good idea to check with your former employer and find out what is listed in your personnel file, in case a prospective employer calls the human resources department to check on you. "The Wall Street Journal" advises that, in some cases, you might be able to get the former employer to list your departure as a separation by "mutual agreement."

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