If You Have (Ever) Been Fired – Take The High Road…

The reality is that it is REALLY hard to dance around a termination on a resume. And guess what? I don’t need hand-picked great candidate references to conduct my own due diligence. NOPE – I can get almost any piece of information I need to ensure the proper vetting of a candidate. What I don’t get is why candidates continually decide to just play dumb on disclosing a termination. One or two phone calls or a few Google searches is usually all it takes and I am well on my way to getting the rest of the story.

Getting shot by a former employer is NOT the end of the world. There could be lots of legitimate reasons for a termination that can be explained. Not coming clean is another story. Now you have credibility and trust issues that many employers (OK – MOST) will have a hard time forgetting about. Candidates need to be able to tell their side of the story and make sure there are others that can help corroborate the real story. To state that a resignation or lay-off took place when is was really a termination is not (smart or) good. What’s worse? Finding out that a candidate lied about it. It’s the kiss of death!

Telling the truth is always the best policy – even if it hurts. I have interviewed candidates that had a termination in their past and was able to make the placement once all of the facts were on the table and verified.

Unfortunately I have a few stories where the truth came out after the facts and the story had a different ending. Not pretty.

About the author


Tim Tolan

Tim Tolan is the Senior Partner of the Healthcare IT and Services Practice of Sanford Rose Associates. He has conducted searches for CEOs, presidents, senior vice presidents, vice presidents of business development, product development and sales. Tim is also the co-author of "The CEO’s Guide to Talent Acquisition – Finding Talent Your Competitors Overlook," available on Amazon.


  • Tim,

    I completely agree that honesty is always the way to go. However, I think it’s important to remember that honesty needs to be tempered with restraint, especially when a candidate is explaining why s/he got fired. This is not the time to (honestly) tell your potential employer what you’d really like to do to the jerk who canned you. Disparaging your previous employer is never a good idea, under any circumstances, even if the jerk deserves it!


  • Disparaging a former employer usually kills an interview. We try to screen that in advance before they get the chance to repeat the same story to our client.
    It’s a real non-starter for me. Bad strategy.

Click here to post a comment