Job-Hunt.org Your Best Job Search Information Source

For Smarter Job Search

Linked In Facebook Twitter

Advertisement

After a Layoff, Answering This Job Interview Question: Why Did You Leave Your Job?

By Beth Colley

When you've lost your job due to a layoff, you need to be prepared to explain what happened -- very carefully.

Layoffs Happen, But Still Need Explanation

It's a common fact -- companies hire people and companies fire people during periods of economic boom and economic bust.

The largest overhead expense that impacts most companies' bottom lines is employee compensation.

When an economic downturn has impacted an organization, reducing human capital is the fastest way a company can cut costs and save money. That choice is often the option selected by corporate management looking for a quick fix.

Whether you use the term layoff, downsizing, or RIF, the result is the same; you lost your job and were involuntarily separated.

[Related: articles in Job-Hunt's free guides to Layoff and Layoff Recovery and Job Loss Recovery.]

Prepare Your Explanation Before You Need It

Rather than squirm in your seat while you figure out how to discuss your involuntary separation, think through your answer in advance so you can provide the right response for the situation.

Regardless as to WHY you were involuntarily separated (i.e. fired, let go, terminated, downsized, etc.) from your last employer, answering the question, "Why did you leave your last position?" will likely be uncomfortable at best.

Follow these simple rules when you answer:

  • Keep your answer brief.
  • Keep your answer positive.
  • Share something you learned through the process.

A job interview is not a time to share grievances or speak disparagingly against an employer.


Advertisement

Examples of Answers to the Question

When it's time to respond to the "Why did you leave your last job?" question, take a deep breath, be brief, answer the question, and stay positive.

Here are a few ways you can respond to the question:

  1. Reduction in force (RIF):

    "The Company decided to close down an entire division, which impacted 15% of its workforce across North America. Unfortunately, I was one of those people.

    "I've had time to re-assess my strengths, skills, and interests and I recently enrolled in a class…have been studying independently…took a workshop…(fill in with something you did to learn something new)."
  2. Downsizing or Reorganization:

    "The Company reorganized, shifted some responsibilities to another division, and upgraded their technology to automate other processes. They eliminated about 8% of the workforce.

    "While looking for work, I've been volunteering with a local nonprofit and assisting with various organizational needs." (If you can share a story about how your volunteer work has positively impacted the employees, other volunteers, or people the agency services, this is a good place to share it.)
  3. Permanent Layoff:

    "Over the last year, the company took a hard look at its organizational structure. The last thing they wanted to do was eliminate jobs, but it was a small company and I was one of 6 people who were let go.

    "One thing I've learned through this process is to make myself less expendable and to take more responsibility to invest in my career and myself. I recently enrolled in a class…have been studying independently…took a workshop…" (fill in with something you did to learn something new).
  4. Temporary Layoff:

    "Much of the work I performed was seasonally based.

    "I typically would find other work to do in the off-season, then, go back when things picked up, but I've decided that I need to find something more stable."

Stay Busy and Productive

If you are angry about your layoff, deal with it. Don't let the anger grow -- you will probably have a "bad attitude" that will impact your interactions with employers and recruiters, hurting your chances of landing a new job.

The best thing to do following an involuntary separation is to stay busy by enrolling in a class, networking with business groups, and/or volunteering your time with a local organization while you seek a new job.

These strategies provide a platform for learning and skill building. It's essential to demonstrate personal and professional growth through these experiences and share that during an interview.

For more about handling behavioral interviews, panel interviews, and telephone interviews, as well as preparing for job interviews, see the article list on the right.


About the author...

Beth Colley CEO/owner of Chesapeake Career Management Services has guided over 1,200 job seekers to career success since joining the careers industry in January of 2000. She is a Certified Master Resume Writer, a Certified Career Management Coach, and a Certified Brain Based Success Coach and an active member of Career Directors International, The National Resume Writers Association, and Career Thought Leaders.


Advertisement

Guide to the Most Common Interview Questions with Answers

The Most Common Job Interview Questions

Questions About You: Questions About Them:

Handling Special Situations in Job Interviews


Advertisement

Job Interview Follow Up:

More Information About Job Interviews:


Over 50? Want work?
Real employers who value your experience are looking for you here.
SeniorJobBank.org

Find Jobs in all states
Jobs across the state - not available elsewhere on the Web. Only here.
CareerCast.com

Employers:
Need additional staff?
$50 credit to post jobs on Indeed.