Job Interview

What To Say In An Interview When You’ve Been Laid Off



When you’re interviewing, the human resources representative, hiring managers, and other interviewers will invariably ask you, “Why were you let go?” The question is mostly innocuous. It's one of the fundamental questions an interviewer is curious about without having an ulterior motive. Nonetheless, it makes you feel like you’re guilty of something. It's unpleasant to have to discuss why you lost your job. The key is to prepare a pitch of how exactly you’ll answer this question. By practicing it, your response will become deeply ingrained. You’ll be able to work through the discomfort and, ultimately, shine.

You can respond by telling the interviewer, “I loved working at X company. It was the best experience of my career. I learned so much and got to know so many amazing people. My boss and teammates were wonderful. It was heartbreaking to receive the news of my separation. I’m not going to pretend it didn’t initially hurt. However, after some time, I realized that this might be the best thing for me. If it wasn’t for the major layoff, I’d have likely stayed with the company for another 10 years—because it would be the easy thing to do. Now, I have the chance to seek out a new challenge—something exciting! Going through the layoff made me mentally stronger. I’m open to taking on new risks that I wouldn't have done before. This includes interviewing for the role we’re talking about now. If it wasn't for the downsizing, I wouldn't be here speaking with you.”

Make sure to drive home why you want to work for this organization and why you are suitable for the role. “Your company is fantastic. I always held it in high regard. The opportunity you presented to me is my dream job. My background, experience, skills, and education are all a perfect fit. It's wonderful that I’m in the right place at the right time.’

Be Prepared For Feeling Out Of Sorts

One of the biggest challenges throughout the job search process is figuring out what to say when interviewing. It's hard for people who’ve succeeded most of their lives to suddenly feel like a failure, since they’ve been laid off. Before the interview, the person that was downsized will confide to their loved ones that they are uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed, even though intellectually they know it's not their fault and the company laid off over 10,000 workers.

If you’ve been impacted by the wave of white-collar layoffs, it will take some time to spring back into action. You’ll need to process and come to terms with what happened. Then, while still healing, there’s pressure to jump into job-hunting mode. When you currently hold a job and are searching for a new role, it's relatively easier. If you don’t succeed in moving forward in the process, you still have a job to fall back on. For those in between roles, it's scarier. You worry about paying the bills and how you will stand out with thousands of other smart, white-collar professionals also looking for work with these unrelenting layoff announcements.

The alteration of your daily work habits will throw you off kilter, making you feel disoriented. You’ll miss your work friends and the familiar flow of the workday. Most fast-track professionals associate their personalities and identity with their jobs. Without the title, there is a feeling of loss and emptiness. When you associate with career-driven people and have family members who pressure you to succeed, that’s an additional burden to bear.

Be Positive

It will take some time for the wound to heal. You’ll require some self-care. Deconstruct what happened. Speak with your boss, colleagues, and others to understand why you were selected for downsizing instead of someone else. This serves a couple of purposes. If it turns out that you were terrific, but management called for a certain number of people from each division to be let go, then you know it's not about you. If you did something that made the firm choose you, it will be an uncomfortable conversation, but ask for constructive criticism and feedback, so you can learn from the situation.

Unless you come to terms with the layoff, it will be hard to get a new job. You’ll inadvertently come to the interview process feeling embittered, angry, and hurt. You may not realize it, but others will pick up on your vibe and frequency. Although it is natural to feel discouraged and resentful, the interviewer doesn’t care. It sounds crass and cold, but they want someone who comes across as a winner. In an environment where thousands of people are being laid off, managers feel they have their pick of the litter. If you enter the interview with a chip on your shoulder or say something mean-spirited or derogatory about your former boss, co-workers, and company, it's too easy, in this market, for the interviewer to take a hard pass and move on to the next applicant who has a more positive and enthusiastic attitude.