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Should you tell a prospective employer if you’ve been fired?

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: I started talking to Company B about a new job, and after a few interviews, things were looking really good. I then got terminated by Company A from my current job. (I didn’t do anything illegal or anything like that, but I was fired.) Now it looks like Company B is ready to make an offer. Should I tell them that I’m no longer employed by Company A? I want to be honest and open but don’t want to throw a wrench in the works.

Nick Corcodilos: Would your termination (and the facts surrounding it) at Company A make a material difference in your ability to do the job properly at Company B?

If not, I see no reason to disclose that you’re no longer employed by Company A (or that you were fired) if you prefer not to. One good reason not to disclose is to protect your ability to negotiate. The other, of course, is that some companies have a bias against the unemployed and that could, as you suggest, throw a wrench into the deal. Why risk it if you don’t have to?

But don’t lie about it if you are asked, including on an application or other forms you are required to sign your name to. Tell the truth. Once you sign contracts, it gets more complicated, and you might need advice from an attorney.

If someone does bring it up at this juncture, I think the best answer is honest, simple and probably goes like this.

How to say it

“I started looking for a new job and I am interviewing with you for several reasons. One is that I didn’t want to work at my old company any more and as of a few days ago — after we started these interviews — I’m no longer working there. Another reason is that I wanted to join a better company working with better people where I’m encouraged to contribute to the bottom line. That’s why I’m here.”

I doubt it’ll get that far. You don’t need to tell everything. What matters is anything that will affect your ability to deliver the work you promise to do. No company has a right to any other part of you or your story — unless you sign a contract to that effect, or the law requires it.

The important point is this: Focus the new employer on why you are talking with them and on what you can do for them if they hire you.

Having said all that, I don’t know any more details than you’ve shared, and I don’t know whether any questions will come up or in what form. My advice is not as important as your own good judgment, so consider all the factors. I hope what I’ve said helps you somehow, and I’d love to know how this turns out. I wish you the best.

Dear Readers: Are you obligated to disclose getting fired? How about if you got fired after the hiring process started? Is there a difference? How would you handle this situation?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

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