Dealing with Past Terminations in your Job Search

Dealing with Past Terminations in your Job Search

26 May, 2015

Losing your job is usually an unpleasant and stressful experience. Now that you are looking for new employment, you will probably have to address the termination during the application process. Here are some tips on how best to navigate this challenging situation. 


Don’t panic!

The days of working for one company or firm your entire career are long gone. As a result, today’s employers are more understanding of a less-than-perfect employment chronology. However, this might well remain a significant hurdle in your candidacy, especially if it isn’t handled right. It is still essential to get the right message across, and to time it properly.


Honesty is the best policy

While dealing with a termination can be difficult, it is crucial to remain truthful at all times, as honesty goes to the very heart of the employer/employee relationship. Being caught in a lie can have catastrophic consequences when you are found out, even years later . However, being honest does not mean that you shouldn’t frame things in the best possible light.


When to bring it up

There is no need to state that you were terminated on your application. Where you will need to disclose it is during the interview stage when asked about why you left your last position. Your goal is to produce an impressive application that gets you an interview, at which time you can address your previous termination face-to-face, now that the employer is already interested in you.


Simply not to bringing it up if the interviewer doesn’t mention it also a possibility. However, if they are likely to contact your previous employer as part of a reference process, it may be better to get out in front so that you can control the framing, rather than just hoping for the best.


If you were only employed for a brief time, you may wish to simply leave the job off your resume entirely. However, you must then be prepared for questions about the gap in your employment history. Part-time jobs you had back in high school that are unrelated to your profession can also safely be left off – even if you weren’t terminated!



People lose their jobs in different ways, and this can affect the way you will want to deal with them during the application process.


When an employee is laid-off, the employment contract is temporarily suspended, with the theory being that you would return to work if the reason for the lay-off ends. In an interview, just explain the circumstances that led to the layoff, and move on. Unlike with a dismissal, you could even mention the layoff in your cover letter, as employers are much more understanding of layoffs than dismissals.



Unlike a layoff, a dismissal is a permanent severing of the employment contract by the employer. Dismissal can either be for cause or without cause. A without cause dismissal is more easily dealt with. Depending on the circumstances, you can present it much the same way as you would a layoff.


A dismissal for cause is much more challenging. Your prospective employer will rightly be concerned by your previous conduct, and might be hesitant to take a chance on you. In such circumstances, your best bet is to approach the issue head-on. You should remain upbeat and matter-of-fact. Admit where you went wrong, and focus on what you learned from the situation and how this will make you a better employee going forward. Focus on your qualifications, and remain positive! It’s easy to get into your own head, so it is vital to remember that they are interested in you, or you wouldn’t have made it this far.


Constructive Dismissal

Constructive dismissal occurs where the employee resigns as a result of the employer’s unacceptable conduct or breach of a significant provision of the employment contract. Since the resignation was not truly voluntary, it can be considered a dismissal.


In these circumstances, it is usually best to proceed the way you would if you had simply quit your previous position. Drawing attention to the fact that you felt forced to resign probably won’t help you, and could hurt your chances or raise unwanted questions. It will almost certainly distract the interviewer from focusing of what’s truly important: your qualifications vis a vis the new position.


Please be advised that the information in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice on any subject matter. As with all legal issues, we recommend you consult your lawyer. Accordingly, ZSA Legal Recruitment Limited will bear no liability to the reader, in any form. There are no representations or warranties made as to the accuracy or substantive adequacy of any information provided in this article.


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