After 19 mo., my employer told me they were modifying my VP position: they basically offered me the opportunity to stay, but in a director’s role instead of that of a VP. They choices I had were: accept the new position with the lower title, or stay on for six months to help them through a challenging transition and be eligible for 9mo severance, or leave with 30days notice and get vaca pay only.  I chose to stay the six months.  They did try to sweeten the deal for me to stay on two occasions, but I did not change my mind. My estimate for reemployment did not anticipate the turn in the economy…been out for 12mo.  The fact that they laid off my replacement after 4 months removes any second guessing though.

In any event, would you recommend mention of the buyout as influencing my decision? Some may wonder why I would have chosen to leave unless the situation was absolutely untenable (which I could be perceived as having some role in).  I would be interested to hear thoughts from this illustrious and thoughtful group.


Best, Andy

HMac's picture


Andy -

It looks to me like you have the elements of a positive story your can tell succinctly, leaving a good impression with the interviewer.

I suggest you start with the business conditions that caused your employer's actions.  Don't start with YOU (with what happened to YOUR position).  Let me give you a specific example - one that I used -

"My company faced substantial losses at yearend, and in an effort to cut expenses, it eliminated over 100 jobs nationwide, or about 5% of the workforce.  One of the positions eliminated was mine...."

That's just an example.  But my advice is to START with the company.  THEN you explain how you chose to stay and help them through the transition, and were even asked to remain a bit longer...And you probably conclude with the acknowledgement that when you left, you didn't anticipate the downturn in the economy...And you finish by telling them of the things that you HAVE been doing during the extended period of layoff (typical examples: consulting, freelance work, part-time work, volunteer work).


Lastly: rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.  Make it natural, succinct, and positive.  No awkward pause at the beginning!


Good luck.  I hope this helps.  I'm sure others will have other approaches too.



Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

I disagree with Hugh.  Recruiters and managers are COMPLETELY tired of answers that start with what candidates want to tell us, and then (perhaps, we don't know at the beginning) move along towards answering our question.  It's so frequent, so frustrating, and so counterproductive that it's one of our top five mistakes that candidates make.

I would have to know more detail to actually give you the skeleton of a script, but I can say it seems that your position was eliminated and you took a severance package.

I suggest that you directly state what happened.  "My position was restructured, and I stayed for 9 months to help with the transtion and then was offered a severance package which I took."

The candor and brevity will engender more favorable questions than an answer designed to bury what actually happened.

You're not that smart, and we're not that dumb.

Trust the truth.



HMac's picture

Mark, your comment titled  "I disagree with Hugh" concludes with the remarks:

"You're not that smart, and we're not that dumb....Trust the truth."

I'm cool with you pointing out a disagreement. 

But "Trust the truth"???  We may have a different approach - but mine does not suggest that a candidate should try to outsmart a hiring manager, nor does it recommend anything that comes anywhere near being untruthful.





jamadd's picture

First off, I want to thank Hugh for the thoughtful response.  I did not think Hugh was inferring that one should try to ‘spin’ a bad situation.  I really have not discussed the strategy of presenting this with anyone, so it is enlightening and helpful to hear the different perspectives.  

That said, I certainly do not want the recruiter/potential employer to question my honesty or integrity.   The truth is everything in my business.  As for additional info.  The company ‘churns through people.’  My predecessor lasted six months, my first successor two months, and the next person was laid off after four months.  My boss has since been let go after 10 years (her second stint with the company) and 5 other members of sr. staff who were there when I started either left or were replaced.  That’s just the sr. staff.  Enough about that.  When I was told they were re-thinking my department, I was told they wanted to bring in an EVP with a different skill set than mine, but that they very much wanted me to stay.  According to them, the restructure was prompted by some threatening competitive prospects on the horizon related to de-regulation.  They said the board would not approve duplicate VP’s so they offered me a director position, with a slight raise and continuance of other perks.  They also put on the table of my leaving at 30 days (w vaca pay) or at six months (to finish a major project and corporate reorganization-in exchange for a generous severance).  During my ‘lame duck’ period, my boss asked me on 3 different occasions to remain with the firm.  Looking at the severance though, it seemed to me a once in a lifetime opportunity to transition and even double dip a bit and get ahead.  Despite their proclaimed desire to keep me on, I saw what was happening around me and figured I was not giving away much in terms of security by choosing to leave.  I had one hot lead about 2 weeks prior to departing and expected to be working again within 4-5 months.  Don’t ask me for stock advice. So I very much want to be as open and candid about this as possible, without getting tripped up with too many details.  I can honestly say that I think their words and actions demonstrate that their decision was not prompted by dissatisfaction with my performance but their desire to match a different skill set to a perceived threat.  Thanks for your thoughts.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


They WILL question your integrity (even if quietly) if you use Hugh's approach and tell them what you want them to know before you tell them what they asked.

How do they do that, when you don't feel you're misleading them, but rather simply structuring your answer to make your situation as palatable as possible?

Well, they say to themselves, "I asked a direct and simple question.  He chose to tell me something I didn't ask for before he got to what I wanted.  So, either he's not very smart (against which I have evidence to the contrary in front of me) or he thinks he can verbally outsmart me.  But I asked a simple and direct question to eliminate that as a possible legitimate answer.  Hence, he is willing to use words to his advantage...and that's what people who are not trustworthy do."

No, they're not calling you a liar... they're just doubting that in the future that you will answer direct questions directly.

And whether you think Hugh was trying to spin a bad situation is (as discussed more fully below) or not, that's exactly what we think when we hear answers like the one he recommends.

It may not feel reasonable...but it's NOT unreasonable.  We look for every discriminator, and we use them.  Particularly today.

- H


Glad you're cool with me pointing out a disagreement, though that's unfortunately not a perquisite of my role here.  I disagree whether coolness will be the response or not.

Your defense of your approach is based on your intent.  My response is based on my direct 20 year experience with hiring managers' responses, and having conducted thousands of interviews myself.  Your intent is largely irrelevant, while their response is of course the entire point.  Hiring managers don't like answers to direct questions that are buried behind candidates' preferred information.  It smacks of verbal sleight of hand, and we find it off-putting.

This situation is similar to a manager receiving a resume with NO accomplishments.  Who would do that?  Well, one group would be those who HAD NO ACCOMPLISHMENTS.  Who are these people?  People who have been fired for non-performance.

So, now, when reasonably accomplished managers get resumes without accomplishments, what do they surmise?  This person might have been fired.

Along comes someone who doesn't know this, and inadvertently creates a resume without accomplishments.

He doesn't MEAN he was fired.  But it's not unreasonable for a hiring manager, using hard-won heuristics, to assume it's possible this candidate got fired for lack of performance, and so will not be interviewed.

The intent was reasonable, but the result was harsh.

Answers like what you suggest are perceived as misleading and too clever by half, whether you intend it or not.  Your intent is only an affirmative defense, but you'll never get a chance to present it.

Us hiring managers DO trust the truth, and whether anyone likes it or not, we infer intent based on our experiences.  And we don't trust well-intentioned but clever deliveries, nor those who deliver them.