How to Talk About Being Laid Off in Your Next Job Interview

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Whether you saw it coming or not, getting laid off is one of the harder things to deal with in life. It can bring about all sorts of uncertainty and insecurity but rest assured, you’re not alone in these feelings. More than 44 million Americans filed for unemployment from March to June 2020. And in 2018, 21.9 million people were laid off in the United States.

So, while it’s always difficult to no longer be needed, or wanted, it’s something that happens to millions of people every year. The differentiator is how you handle a layoff. It’s OK to take a few weeks to regroup and figure out what your next move is. It’s also OK to wake up the next morning and start reaching out to your network and scouring job boards.

But once you do land your next job interview, you’ll want to address your layoff in the right way. Here’s how.

Be Direct

Sometimes it’s best to address the layoff head on, especially when it comes up naturally in conversation. For example, an interviewer may ask you why you’re looking for a new job. In that case, reply honestly and say that you were recently laid off due to [insert reason here] and that you’re now looking to use and expand on the skills you learned in your previous position.

But what if you don’t know why you were laid off? Companies can be vague in their reasoning, and while you can definitely ask as you depart, you may still be left feeling like you don’t know exactly why they decided to let you go. If this sounds like your situation, simply say that the company was restructuring or going through changes, and in the process, your position was no longer needed. Take your best guess and try to be as honest as possible, especially if you’re using someone from the company as a reference.

Tell Your Story

If your reason for job hunting doesn’t come up naturally, you don’t necessarily have to come right out and say that you were laid off. Instead, you can talk about your last position and then segue into what you’re looking for now. Oftentimes, interviewers will ask about your background or experience in a general way, so it’s up to you to tell your career story.

A few options for addressing a layoff could be saying you and the company parted ways, that you’re looking for a new challenge or that the team/role was eliminated. It’s really up to you how you want to include it in your story. Speaking from personal experience, I try to read the vibe of the interviewer and then address it based on that. Some people make you feel very much at ease and it’s a casual conversation-style interview. Whereas other interviews are more formal and you may want to stick to the facts and that’s it.

The key to talking about a layoff is to not shy away from it. For starters, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s also a great way to show a potential employer how you handle adversity. Go in there and confidently discuss your job history and show how well you can handle any situation.

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