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Asked by Kate on June 28, 2016

How do I tactfully word that I was terminated from a job on an application? There was a personality conflict and hostility toward me in this small office setting - from co-workers to my manager. I worked there for approximately 2 years. It was not a good fit, although I tried really hard to make it work and loved the job and wanted to learn more. This was my first and only full time job. I do have a couple of good relationships with people I met there, but no longer work there. They have agreed to give me a recommendation. Am I obligated to even reveal that I was terminated? Does the hiring employer have a right to ask that question? Some have told me that it is not legal to ask. Is that true?

Answered by Courtney, Hiring Expert at ADP, on June 29, 2016

This is a great question that I feel others could really benefit from - thanks for asking it!  Some employers will ask if you have ever been terminated from a job and you need to answer honestly.  If they contact this employer to verify your employment and if you are eligible for rehire, your application needs to accurately reflect that or the job possibilities could end there.  It is typically a yes or no question, and I would not provide any explanation on the application.  You can then take the time to verbally explain the situation if asked about it from the recruiter you are working with.  Sometimes it will matter, sometimes it won't.  It depends on the employers policy & background check process.  In the meantime, consider asking some people you worked with there to write a letter of recommendation for you on your LinkedIn profile.  Good luck!

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Answered by Lori, Hiring Expert at Cigna, on June 30, 2016

First off, know that you are not alone in being in this situation. There are many individuals that end up in situations where they are terminated or leave on their own because of a negative experience or environment. You must always answer truthfully on any job application, but you aren't required to list a full explanation of the situation. Recruiters and hiring managers shouldn't discount you solely if you were terminated from a prior position. If you are asked for details on the termination, I would only say it was a mutual decision that it wasn't the best fit. Employers can ask any questions as long as they are consistent with all the candidates that they interview, and that they are not questions that could be deemed discriminatory. Since your job history is part of determining your relevant work experience for a role, they can ask you for why you left.  Since you don't want to dwell on that aspect in your interview or even the job application, stick to the positive things with your education and experience. Not only will those accomplishments be areas that will interest a hiring manager and/or recruiter more, but it will show that you are adaptable and aren't looking to bad mouth a company or prior colleagues. Especially since this was your first full time job, you can take it as a learning experience to take with you when deciding on making your next move. All the best!

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Answered by Ashley, Hiring Expert at The Hershey Company, on July 1, 2016

Great question! It’s always good to be honest up front on your application or during an interview if they ask about your previous employer and why you are no longer there. Employers sometimes will do a reference check and if does not match your application this is something that could cost you the job. I would suggest to explain with brief details but don’t ignore important details either. If you do have recommendation letters from your previous co-workers tell them you would be happy to share. Best of luck!

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Answered by Steve, Hiring Expert at Caterpillar Inc., on July 1, 2016

First, do not list on a resume the reasons for leaving a job.  Simply list the company, the time frame that you worked there, your title and what you did.  Remember, companies will verify this information, so always be truthful.  Where this specific question may come up is in an interview.  Yes, interviewers can ask this question.  If it does come up, there are two important things on which you should focus.  One, be honest about the situation and two, and most importantly, demonstrate how you have learned and grown because of the situation.  This will be much more well received than attempting to dance around the question.  Deal with head on and then shift the focus to you and what you bring to the table for that employer.

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