Firstly, my question has been extensively rewritten following a) a flag and b) comments that I needed to clean it up.

I was dismissed from a job recently during my probation period. The official reason is because I failed to meet the requirements of punctuality. I was late 6 times over a 7 month period.

The more complex reason was that, for the first time, I was having mental health problems related to a disability that I have. I sought treatment during and since my employment ended and I’m much healthier now.

I have been searching for work in the same industry that I have been based in and have extensive experience in. These are mainly handled through recruitment agencies.

I have enjoyed success in attracting recruitment agencies to me. I have had multiple phone calls solely because my CV is online to view but also I am contacted within 24 hours of sending an application to them when applying for a specific job.

So, I must be doing something right.

Where it goes wrong is that upon contacting me, their second question is always “How come you left x?”

My answer is that “X decided not to make me permanent following my probation period. I had some minor issues with punctuality relating to a health problem which I sought treatment for and is now resolved.”

After I give this answer, the recruitment agent's tone changes and so far, I have not seen a single face-to-face interview result from an agency.

The reason for my question initially was that I had just heard I had been unsuccessful for a job which was the exact same as the one I had been dismissed from but with a competitor. My interview had gone extremely well but again their 2nd question was as above. I addressed the question and, at the time, I did think they did like the answer but they did have follow up questions.

It may be presumptive but I seriously believe that my recent dismissal has damaged my employability which is why I have asked for advice.

Additionally, I have asked the benefits officer dealing with my unemployment claim for advice. He told me that as employers cannot give me a bad reference then I should not tell them the real reason. Surely this is beyond wrong, legally and morally?

I have managed to secure another face to face interview for next week and if it goes well, the start date is immediate. So, it is vitally important to me but needless to say, this will come up as it hasn’t yet.

So how do I deal with this?

  • 8
    Even without a dismissal issue, it often takes several apparently successful face-to-face interviews to land a job offer. I would not make any assumptions based on a single face-to-face. Sep 21, 2015 at 14:25
  • Agreed. I should have mentioned that the face to face was doing the exact same job and industry as I was dismissed from with a competitor. I've emailed them requesting feedback because beyond the previous dismissal issue, I do not understand what went wrong. Sep 21, 2015 at 14:59
  • 2
    The key question to answer about a dismissal is whether you have learned your lesson from it and how you are going to avoid the same situation again. Given that you have a relatively strong understanding of what went wrong and are proactively seeking to improve it, I think you are in a relatively good position. I won't make this an answer though as I don't have a good suggestion on how to tactfully discuss a potential mental health issue as part of the interview process.
    – Eric
    Sep 21, 2015 at 14:59
  • 1
    The circumstances may be somewhat different, but I believe the answers are the same - be honest, don't make excuses, and explain how you are working to not make the same mistake again.
    – David K
    Sep 21, 2015 at 16:27
  • 1
    And don't forget, jobs are a competition, just because you did well on the interview doesn't mean someone else didn't do better. The reason you didn't get the job may have had nothing to do with getting fired in your last job.
    – HLGEM
    Sep 21, 2015 at 20:20

3 Answers 3


Honestly is always the best policy. That being said, honestly does not mean giving them your complete medical history. Start with being open as to the official reason, then provide a non-detailed explanation and finally close with how you've learned from it and that will make you even better now.

In your shoes I would say something like, "They chose not to convert me to permanent after my probation period. The reason was because I had what was deemed an unacceptable level of tardiness. This was totally true, I was dealing with some serious personal issues at the time, which I've since resolved. Instead of being up front with my employer I tried to handle it all myself. I realize now I should have been more open with what was happening."

  • "I realize now I should have been more open with what was happening." Sounds like you're saying they should ask you more about it.
    – user42272
    Sep 21, 2015 at 18:46
  • @djechlin If you're currently employed with someone and at that time, run into personal issues, it may be appropriate to discuss these with your manager. You may be able to come to agreement that works out for both of you. I think that's what this comment is getting at.
    – Brandin
    Sep 22, 2015 at 7:47
  • @Brandin explain that to the interviewer who is trying to pry more information out of the candidate.
    – user42272
    Sep 22, 2015 at 14:42
  • @djechlin either your interviewer is going to be ethical or they are not going to be. Be truthful. If they are not ethical, then odds are you don't want to work for the company anyway. That isn't saying you tell them everything. You stick with "it was a personal matter" and "It is no longer an issue". Sep 22, 2015 at 16:37
  • You need to give some guidance on how to deal with it for this answer to be complete. To my knowledge it's not illegal or unethical to say "What were you going through?"
    – user42272
    Sep 22, 2015 at 20:39

People tend to remember the first thing you say more than something you bury in the middle of a statement. You're leading with "I was late too much". Instead, turn it around:

I had some medical issues that interfered with my ability to do the job and they dismissed me during the probation period. Those issues are now resolved and I'm eager to get back to work.

In addition to changing the order I dropped the specific reason (punctuality). It doesn't matter since it's fixed now, so why give them a specific thing to react to? If they ask a followup question about how your performance was affected then answer truthfully, but in my experience, interviewers don't generally pry into past medical issues so long as they know they're in the past.


Be honest with less details.

"I was late 6 times in 7 months. I didn't think it was a big deal, as I worked longer each time and all my tasks were finished in time. I know now how important it is to not only get the work done, but to be also on time."

  • " I didn't think it was a big deal" is something I wouldn't say - it sounds like you are not taking your employer's concerns (and your duty) seriously. I apparently was a big deal to your employer, so don't play it down.
    – sleske
    Jan 21, 2016 at 11:00
  • @sleske The question states that after telling the honest reason, he is not considered anymore, because "I was sick, now I'm fine" makes companies worry about the future. If you think "I made a judgment error about the importance" is a bad answer, you should mention which reply is better, because just not replying at all to the interviewer isn't going to be much better. Jan 21, 2016 at 11:45
  • Honestly, I don't know how to best express this. I just wanted to warn about sounding dismissive. However, in the right context I suppose your answer would be fine.
    – sleske
    Jan 21, 2016 at 12:07

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