The Truth About Being Fired

Dear HR Lady,

Recently I was fired from my job for violation of code of conduct. I work for an outsourcing company with operations in India. Before my coworker left the company, he gave me a cartoon of an american child angry at her father b/c he declined her request to outsource her homework to India.

While my coworker was with firm for couple years, it was never an issue. When I was not present at my desk due to surgery, supposedly, an employee from India saw the cartoon and felt threatened by it. I am not looking for sympathy but I believe that I was targeted because of my vocal criticism of the poor management–in hindsight, that was the stupid thing to do–I feel that I was targeted specifically.

After I was dismissed during my recovery from surgery, I decided to pursue my CPA. I am currently interviewing for jobs and they ask me the reason for my departure from my previous firm in late November.

I tell them about my pursuit of CPA and change in management, both which are true. However, I cannot bring up to tell them that I was fired. I feel that if I bring that up, it will automatically disqualify me from the competitive jobs that I am seeking. I want to be honest but it really bothers me that I was fired. I am only 25 years old and have 1.5 years of full time experience. What should I do? I know lying is wrong but how much can HR find out by calling the old firm which I worked for? I don’t know what to do. Thanks in advance.


Dear J,

First, you can find out what your former HR department will say by calling up and asking them. Most large companies only allow their HR department to confirm dates of employment and titles.

Second, it is always good to be honest. Honesty is the best policy. But, you don’t have to tell everyone everything about everyone. If they ask why you left, you don’t need to mention the cartoon, you can mention you were terminated. Explain how you’ve learned a great deal from the experience and you took it as an opportunity to gain your CPA. Then go directly into a discussion of the new qualification you gained since then.

Be positive, not bitter. Focus on your skills. Don’t keep thinking that this one blip on you resume will ruin your life. I know many people who have been fired (and by fired, I mean terminated for poor performance and cause, not just laid off) and they’ve all come away better for it. You can learn and grow from it.

I understand how devastating it is to be fired. Heck, when I was working as a temp I cried when I was told a temp assignment was over. But, trust me, you are not the only person who has ever been fired. Most likely at least one of the people you will be interviewing with has been fired themselves.

I’m sorry you had to go through this. Hopefully, with your new CPA certification on your resume and your past work experience, you’ll get over this bump. And by the way, can I ask you a tax question?

Good luck!

Evil HR Lady

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9 thoughts on “The Truth About Being Fired

  1. J:

    Most important….application blanks will usually ask your reason for leaving. This is where you do not want to “less than completely forward.” If your new employer learns later that you were actually terminated (and you had indicated something different), many will dismiss for dishonesty on the application.

    I have seen people indicate terminated but then also state that they would like to explain the circumstances. Your dismissal in itself sounds potentially shakey…dismissal while recovering from surgery???

  2. Robert is absolutely correct–don’t lie or try to cover up.

    And I agree the dismissal sound sketchy, but I still think you’d be better off moving on rather than fighting it.

  3. Everyone has been fired once.

    My first thought was – omission is not lying. Unless you are directly asked – the application asks – or it is somehow a crime.

    On the flip side – a very close friend was fired for dating a co-worker.

    On the application it asked if they had ever been fired. My friend was truthful. Even though it never came up in the interview process.

    Later the company that fired my friend wanted to sue them for the money they got paid in unemployment.

    So – my friend had to take time off from the new job to defend themselves in court.

    When my friend requested time off – they went directly to their resume to see if they had lied.

    Once they saw my friend was truthful, they granted time off.

    But my friend was told flat out – “we would have fired you immediately if you had lied on the application”.

    Some companies simply may not care.

    For example I asked Mr. Snarkolepsy – who still does a great deal of interviewing, and he would have thought that was a lame reason for being fired.

    It wouldn’t have made an impact.

  4. I don’t know anything about the company that terminated you: the kind of company, it’s size, whether or not it has a real HR dept, etc., or about the history of the “vocal criticism of the poor management” that you engaged in, but it seems a dumb thing to fire someone who’s off on medical leave after surgery for something other than fraud or really serious misconduct. if that cartoon is really their hook, it’s a pretty weak one, i believe. Here’s a thought….you might approach a good employment lawyer and have him write a letter to your former employer, suggesting that if they want to avoid the messiness of a lawsuit, you’d be willing to forget their rash behavior if they would change your discharge to a voluntary quit. This could have been an action taken without the “blessing” of their HR people and/or their legal dept., in which case they might well be willing to do it. I’m familiar with a couple cases similar to yours where this tactic worked. 6 months after the fact is kind of long for this approach, and it may cost you some money in attorney fees, but usually you can get a consult for free. Just a thought. It would hurt to talk to a lawyer and see what he would think.

  5. I was fired from a job I had a few years ago.

    On applications, rather than state “fired” or “terminated,” I state “position eliminated.” How bad is that?

    When asked in an interview, I state that my position with the company was eliminated due to not meeting call volume requirements of 120+ calls per day.

  6. How do I explain being fired from walmart after 16 years for poor performance? I get no where in job interviews that have to do with customer service. They look at me like I committed a crime.

  7. Was fired for code of conduct, can I fight this through the labor commissioner? And can I collect unemployment ?

  8. Thank you Evil HR Lady very much. I feel much better after reading this. I recently took a position with a new company and was terminated within in three months. The reason I was given was I was sweet but he felt I was not actively listening to him. I asked if everything else was okay and he said yes. I also asked for another chance and let him know I really wanted the job and he said no. I have now got to find a job and have not been fired before. I feel like I should have just stuck with my previous employer as I am attending school and need a full time job. You have given me hope that maybe I can find another job.

  9. I am being terminated from my company due to breach of code of conduct.SHall I go for a job hunt with the 2 years of full time experience or Shall I go as a fresher?? Really worried to find a new job.Shall I tell my future employer due to XYZ reasons I am being asked to leave as my former HR said they would only mention resignation reason would be involuntary.

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