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  1. Blog
  2. Interviewing
  3. March 6, 2023

How to Talk About Your Layoff in a Job Interview

Honesty is the best policy

A woman talking about her layoff in a job interview
Photo courtesy of cottonbro studio

You want to be your best self in a job interview—so talking about a low career point, like a layoff, isn’t a favorite topic to cover. But it doesn’t have to be a tough answer at all. 

Here’s how to navigate talking about your layoff while acing your job interview. 

Don’t fear talking about your layoff when interviewing

Jenna Cantwell of Cantwell Career Coaching, who helps clients prepare with mock interviews, says to be honest when you tell a recruiter or interviewer that you were laid off. 

“I would be short and concise. And I wouldn’t go into too much detail,” Cantwell says. “Layoffs are a pretty common thing right now. I would just say you were let go, and move on.” 

So a straightforward and short “I was laid off,” or “My department was cut during a layoff,” or “The company cut 15 percent of the staff,” should do it! 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people job hunting because of layoffs, especially in the tech industry. Between Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and others, more than 70,000 employees have been cut in the last year. 

But the fact that layoffs are common can help you smoothly handle any interview questions regarding why you’re no longer at your previous job. Your interviewer has probably talked to many people who have been laid off and knows you’re not alone. 

“What’s going on in the world, like during the pandemic, can help. If you had a gap in employment or were laid off during 2020–21, [your interviewers] are much more likely to take the pandemic/COVID answer and move on,” Cantwell says. “Also the industry helps. Obviously if you are in tech and you mention [you’ve been laid off], that’s not a shock. If it was newsworthy, like a company that was in the news like Peloton or Amazon, just mentioning that will help move on to the next questions.” 

Read more: The Best Answer to ‘Why Are You Looking for a New Job?’

Keep your layoff talk professional when interviewing 

You might feel angry, frustrated, or depressed about being laid off. Work through those feelings, but not during your job interview. 

“Always be positive, don’t bash your former company or manager,” Cantwell says. She says if you want to make sure you hit the right tone, practice!

“Do a recording and see how you look when you answer these questions,” Cantwell says. “Show your growth. Highlight accomplishments or value-driven experience.” But don’t vent about why you should not have been let go, or how they’ll regret keeping your coworker and not you. 

Read more: How to Answer, ‘Do You Want to Tell Us Anything Else About You?’

How to keep your layoff anxiety out of your job interview 

You might carry some leftover “layoff nerves” with you into your next job, worried you’ll be let go again without any notice. There’s never a 100 percent guarantee you won’t be laid off again. 

Remember, layoffs aren’t rare. There were 15.4 million layoffs in 2022, according to career statistics site Zippia. And 40 percent of Americans have been laid off or terminated at least once. 

Of course, if a company is hiring, that’s a good sign they aren’t laying people off. But if you find it’s on your mind and you have an interview scheduled, here are some ways to calm those nerves.

First, Cantwell says not to bring up your “will I be laid off again” concerns to your interviewer, even if they’re still top of mind. 

“What I would do is research the company,” Cantwell says. “You can look on Glassdoor and read recent reviews from former employees. If a month ago they were mentioning they were laid off and there were a bunch of them, that could be a hint. Do some more web research to see if there’s anything about that type of industry and how they’re doing.” 

There are also questions you can ask to get an idea of how the company is doing. 

“Be prepared for the interview. Write down a list of questions you want to ask to determine if it’s a company you want to work for, like if you see progress for them, if they’re growth-minded,” Cantwell says. “You can mention that you’re excited to start a long-term career, or the next chapter of your career, working for a company that’s growth-minded like they are. You can also ask them specific questions, like what are their five-year growth plans, or where do they see the department or company being in the next five years, to kind of gauge where they’re at and where they think that they’ll be.” 

Remember: Your layoff is far from a defining characteristic of yours. So go find a better opportunity and don’t worry about the past! 

Read more: Questions to Ask In An Interview That Actually Tell You About the Job

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