It's unlikely that your previous employer is going to discuss your work record with the company you're interviewing with. Doing so takes time from your previous employer's duties and it puts HR in a precarious position. Employers are careful about making statements that imply they're overstepping professional boundaries by giving details about your past employment.


Termination is the word many companies use to describe an end to the working relationship, regardless of whether it was a voluntary or involuntary end on the part of the employer. Voluntary termination covers resignations and retirement. Involuntary terminations include discharge or firing, job elimination and permanent layoff. That said, many HR departments use the term to denote the end of an employment relationship, as in "Our records indicate Jane Doe's employment terminated on January 15, 2012." In this case, even if your previous employer says your employment was terminated, HR might not provide any additional information about the termination or even if your employment ended involuntarily. Many companies limit the information they provide to your position or title and employment dates.


If you resigned from your previous job, your job was eliminated or you were laid off, don't use the word "terminated" on the employment application where you provide the reason you left your previous job. Although "terminated" is the word many companies use to describe an employee's departure, it might be taken out of context if you use it to explain why you left your previous employer. However, if you were fired for cause, such as misconduct or poor performance, simply put "terminated" in the space for why you left your old job. Refrain from trying to make your explanation fit into the space on your application. During your interview, you'll have time to explain why you were fired. Generally speaking, the interviewer won't ask your previous employer why you were fired until he gives you a chance to explain.


Answer the interviewer's questions honestly when asked to explain why you left your previous job. If you were terminated for poor performance, briefly explain the circumstances and tell the interviewer what you learned from being fired based on your performance. Stress that you have improved your work habits or that you acquired skills that have helped you become a better team member and employee. Refrain from describing your previous work experience from a negative perspective. If the interviewer shows signs or gives nonverbal cues that she understands your explanation, she might not even ask your previous employer why you were fired.

Employment Verification

A recruiter or hiring manager starts usually doesn't star making calls to verify your work history until you've successfully passed the first- and second-round interviews. Many companies direct callers looking for employment verification to contact a company to which they've outsourced their employment verification calls. Doing so alleviates the job seeker's previous employer of its obligation to have a conversation with the recruiter who is calling for verification. When calls are routed to a third party for employment verification, it takes the previous employer out of the loop. Consequently, the company doesn't take time to discuss the reason you were fired when prospective employers call.


Employers are careful about disclosing information unless they can attest to the absolute accuracy of the statements they provide about why a former employee was fired. Giving too much information about the reason you were fired could put the company at risk for legal action based on slander or libel. For example, if you were fired from your job because the company thought you were involved in misappropriation of funds with your coworkers -- but there's no proof you misappropriated the funds -- the company shouldn't release the information. On the other hand, if you were fired for your lack of expertise in a particular area, the company might say that you're ineligible for rehire. In any case, the chances of your former employer giving details about your termination are slim.