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Harvard Business Review – How to Apply for a New Job After You’ve Been Fired

  • December 2017

After you’ve been fired, getting back into the job market can be difficult. Egon Zehnder Senior Advisor Claudio Fernández-Aráoz offered his expertise on how best to approach this situation in Harvard Business Review. “You have no idea how much information about you and your circumstances is out there beyond what you’re broadcasting,” he says. “And you might fret that others will perceive your firing as a stain on your record. You worry that everyone will immediately assume it’s your problem.” Getting over your job loss and finding new employment is a challenge — but when you come out on the other side, you’ll be a much better worker in the long run.

To better understand the circumstances that led to your firing, it may be worthwhile to speak with members of your former employer’s HR department, says Fernández-Aráoz. After you “sign all the documents that need to be signed” and let “your emotions” cool, “schedule a meeting to debrief,” he says. “Good HR people can help you understand what types of jobs might be a good fit in the future.”

Fernández-Aráoz outlines these Do's and Don'ts for getting back into the job market:


  • Reflect on what you’ve learned about yourself in light of the firing and what it means about the kind of environment in which you thrive.

  • Reach out to people with whom you’ve worked in the past for job leads and to serve as references.

  • Plan how you’re going to handle direct questions about why you left your last job by preparing a short, upbeat explanation.


  • Discount talking to your former HR department about the firing. Let your emotions cool, and then schedule a meeting to debrief.

  • Omit your previous job from your CV and cover letter. But don’t draw attention to it either.

  • Be negative about your prospects. During your search, surround yourself with friends and take good care of yourself.


It is also important to allow yourself time to heal before you start networking in earnest. Fernández-Aráoz recommends asking an “insightful friend—someone who knows you well and has your back,” if you’re ready. Once you’ve given yourself time, reflect on what you’ve learned about yourself in light of the firing. For instance, if your dismissal was due to a personality clash with your manager or a mismatched cultural fit, consider what kinds of colleagues you’d like to work with in the future and the environment you need to thrive. “There are no bad personalities,” says Fernández-Aráoz. “It’s always a matter of circumstances.”

Before you begin actively applying for jobs, you need to “make a list of people who can offer great references for you,” says Fernández-Aráoz. Your credibility will be extremely important for HR. “Think about people who may not be in your inner circle but who have known you professionally for a long time and can vouch for you,” he says. This exercise will also likely provide job leads. When people understand what you’re looking for, they’re better able to help.

Full Story: How to Apply for a New Job After you’ve been Fired in Harvard Business Review (8 December 2017).

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