I've been laid-off. I am employed for a few months have have a small severance.

When asked "Why do I want to leave my firm?" Do I say "I've been laid-off and need a job in four months?"

How do I handle such questions when I am (technically) still employed?


wendii's picture
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There are (unfortunately) thousands of people in your position. State the situation simply, without self-pity, in two sentences or less: "400 people were laid off from my firm, due to the economic conditions. Unfortunately, I was one of them".

If, due to the terms of your redundancy, you are unable to start until a certain date, when asked 'when can you start', answer that question truthfully, with the date, again simply stating: "I can start on xxx. Whilst I'd like to start sooner, I'm unable to under the terms of my redundancy."

Does that help?


HMac's picture

Freeborn: sorry to hear your news.  I wish the best outcome for you.

Wendii's advice is excellent.  I will only add one minor point - which may seem semantic, but it really isn't.


I suggest you say that your position was eliminated, rather than you were laid off.  As long as this is the truth, this is an important distinction, because the decision was not about YOU, but about YOUR JOB.


When you tell someone: "I was laid off" or "My old employer laid me off" it may sound like a personal decision; that is, that the employer made a decision about YOU.  When you say" "My position was eliminated" you put the focus on the function - that the company decided, however reluctantly, that it would get on without someone doing what you were doing.


Again, if you were fired for cause, that's a whole different conversation!


But interviewing and telling people that you are looking for work/in transition/unemployed is hard enough; don't make it harder by saying "I was laid off."


Best wishes,


peterddw's picture

You may find the 3 part interview with John Lucht deals with the nature of this issue quite well.  You can find this in the new Career Tools podcasts.


freeborn's picture

Wendii: Thank You

HMac - Correct, my position was eliminated. 15% of the workforce was eliminated. Thank you for the semantic clarification as it is most accurate.


asteriskrntt1's picture


Hmac and Wendii are pretty good on this stuff ;)

Often, this is just an icebreaker.... Although some recruiters want to know if you were fired/dismissed or quit on your own.  Use it as a transition into positive chit chat with the recruiter if possible.




Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


Three comments.

1. Wendii is right.

2. Hugh's distinction is one I find too fine, and not without danger.  You WERE laid off.  The distinction here is LAID OFF.  To be able to say that truthfully - and you can, because your position was eliminated - is that laid off does NOT imply that your performance was a factor, and that it wasn't about you, but rather about the company. Changing the verbiage to "my position was eliminated" is not inherently wrong, but choosing that because you fear the dangers of saying "laid off" is misguided.

The only reason to do that is a mistaken belief that being laid off has more negatives than your position being eliminated.  It doesn't.  More importantly, the harder we try to be less clear, or more careful, or less crisp..."oh what a tangled web we weave."

And, full disclosure, if you doubt the genesis of this approach, we recommend that those who are fired, when they are interviewed, say, "I was fired."

You were laid off.  It's okay.  And it's okay to say so.  And stop worrying about this answer.  Others await your practice. ;-)

3. RNTT suggests using a specific question to "transition" to "positive chitchat", and I disagree.  You've been asked a direct question.  Answer it.  If you want to add, "and after my initial disappointment, I'm excited about my search", that's fine.  THAT relates to their question, and after having answered it, you add something that is helpful relative to the topic being addressed.

A too quick transition to "positive chitchat" or something else sends a message of fear that might cause even MORE questions about your professional disposition and its causes.


asteriskrntt1's picture

I did not say to avoid answering the question.  I said use it as a transition, the definition of transition being moving from one thing (the answer) into another thing (chitchat). 





freeborn's picture

> Wendii is right.
> Hugh's distinction is one I find too fine, and not without danger. 

Thank you Mark. I completed a day of face-to-face interviews following Wendii's advice. When asked why I am leaving my firm, my response was crisp: "20 positions were eliminated due to economic conditions and my position happened to be one of them."

In my line of work I must be confidential yet some news quickly travels from one company to the next .

I believe any hedge would eliminate my candidacy.