How to Explain Why You Were Fired or Laid Off in an Executive Interview

Explaining why you were fired or laid off is likely the most challenging question you will hear in an executive interview. This is a hard topic to explain to your best friend or spouse, let alone someone you’d like to convince to hire you.

The experts at Ciresi & Morek recommend being honest but driving the conversation in a positive direction.

To develop the best strategy for answering this type of interview question, use the steps below.


  1. Be truthful. If you are caught lying, you tarnish your reputation and risk having your offer stripped away. Assume your interviewers will call for reference checks and could learn firsthand if you weren’t truthful.
  2. Resist the urge to over-explain. Address the questions and move on. It is important to put the interviewer’s fears to rest, so give a succinct explanation and steer the conversation towards the future. Use your interview time to explain why you are the ideal candidate for this position, not why you weren’t for your previous role.
  3. Speak positively about your former employer. Bashing your previous boss or employer will draw more red flags. It often gives the impression that you were the difficult one to work with, instead of the opposite.


Remember, always make the conversation positive. No matter why you were let go, explain why it is for the best, what you learned from the experience, and what you will do with a new opportunity.

Some examples include:

“Culturally the company was not a good fit for me, so I’d like the opportunity to work for a company that has different values and is actively involved in the community.”

“With changing technology, I knew parts of my job could be outsourced, so I am glad that I took the time to also develop my management skills. I managed a team of 20 and now have the skills to take on an executive management role.” 

“I survived a lot of ups and downs with this company, but unfortunately was part of a large round of layoffs. I am an extremely loyal worker, so I am somewhat glad I now have the opportunity to share my skills with a new team. It’s a push to take a next step and I’m excited to embrace the change.”

Practice your response and perfect the ways you can make your explanation as positive as possible.


There are plenty of tough questions to field in an executive interview, but the hardest part is often getting your foot in the door. An executive recruiter can connect you to the best opportunities for your background and goals. Contact Ciresi & Morek today to learn more!

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