What Should I Say at an Interview If I Failed My Probation at My Last Job?

Talking about failing a probation period can be difficult and embarrassing, depending on the reason you failed, for example did not like the job versus could not do the job.

You will need to be honest, as the employer may state that employment is subject to references, and it is important to note:

  • Be aware that some employers will not provide references due to concerns about litigation and, if they do, they may only provide job title, dates of employment, and salary history.
  • Current/former employers are under no legal obligation to give current/former employees a reference.
  • Generally, there is no rule about how long or detailed a reference has to be.
  • In some occupations, references are mandated (for example junior doctors in the UK) and a template is provided.
  • If a current/former employer does provide a reference, then they have a duty of care to ensure it is accurate and factual. Do not confuse a bad reference with an inaccurate or nonfactual reference.

Use this as a unique chance to clarify who you are in the interview stage. The ability of an employee to identify their own strengths and weaknesses is a very popular interview question (and, indeed, desirable skill). Such honesty about your probation may not only be appreciated, it may actually help you stand out.

You can find out more about probation periods here.


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