If you’ve lost your job – or are going to lose
your job – the last thing that you want to talk about is
“why” you lost your job. In fact, the question
“Why did you leave your last
is one of the toughest questions to deal with –
especially if you’ve been let go in one form or
If you are among the thousands of people who have been laid
off in the last year and a half, you can simply state:
“I was laid off.”
This answers the question but still leaves a lingering doubt
in the mind of the interviewer, – “Why were
you laid off?” The more specific your
answer, the more effective it will be.
“There were six rounds of layoffs at my last
company. I survived five rounds, but when it came to round six they
had to cut deep. My position was eliminated along with half of my
group because the project we were working on was
Not everyone will have such a definite statement to make.
Whatever your situation is it will be helped by including facts and
figures to explain the circumstances surrounding your layoff.
“10% of the workforce was let go,” or
“One out of every ten jobs was affected,
When you quantify a statement it has more depth. When you tell
the interviewer whether it was 10 or 1000 people were laid off
helps put the situation in perspective.
If you were fired, you probably dread being asked this
question. Not only have you been fired, you have to talk about it
– over and over. How you deal with questions about being
fired will depend on how you have resolved the issue with
Here are examples of how two candidates answer the
“I had a great boss, but he left. From the very
beginning it was clear that my new boss and I were going to be at
odds. We just had different types of personalities. She kept
changing the rules. One day she would want it this way, and the
next day another way,” rambled Karen. “I don’t
usually have problems with bosses but this woman was really
overbearing in her management approach.”
This is not the best way to present the situation. This
candidate could be classified as a “whiner.”
Badmouthing former employers during the interview is a bad idea. No
one wants to hear about someone else’s shortcomings,
particularly someone they don’t even know.
A better example of how to handle the situation:
“I was let go after a major reorganization.
The merging of different cultures had caused a major change in the
way things were done. There were some differences of opinion
between my boss and myself and, in the end, I was fired.. I take
responsibility for my part in the way things turned out. I learned
a lot from the experience, and in retrospect, I would have handled
it differently. But, that is behind me now, and I am ready to move
on with a new perspective.”
This is a much better answer because it demonstrates strength
and self-confidence. Candidate #2 takes responsibility and deals
with the question honestly.
Whether you were let go under unfair circumstances or for
something you did and regret, scripting your answer ahead of the
interview will help you. You don’t want to bad-mouth your
former employer or sound like a victim (even if you were). Practice
your answer with someone in a mock interview and obtain feedback on
your comfort-level while discussing your situation.
Probably the worst way to handle this question is by lying.
One lie usually leads to another, and before you know it you are in
over your head. You always take a chance whenever you put a lie on
an application. The application usually has a signature line on the
back where you sign, stating that the above is true, and that any
false statements could be grounds for termination.
It is a fact that “people lose their jobs
everyday.” They move on and get new jobs. And, you
will too. No matter what the circumstances, put it behind you and
move on. Deal with your feelings about the lay off or firing, and
prepare your answer to the question before it is asked. Being
prepared will make you feel more confident and less emotional about