This article was published on July 12, 2022

What to say in an interview if you were laid off

Don't sweat it


What to say in an interview if you were laid off
Pippa Hardy
Story by

Pippa Hardy

Pippa is content creator and writer for Amply by Jobbio. She’s a work-from-home enthusiast who loves all things travel and tech. When she’s Pippa is content creator and writer for Amply by Jobbio. She’s a work-from-home enthusiast who loves all things travel and tech. When she’s not writing up her next article, she’s usually hiking or spending a whole afternoon on Pinterest.

Interviews can be tricky. You always want to put your best foot forward. So, naturally, you prepare examples of your key skills, prepare some case studies to talk through, plan a nice outfit, and always be punctual. But sometimes one simple question can throw things completely off course.

Often that question is, “Why did you leave your last job?”

Of course, there are lots of reasons why you might be searching for a new career. Maybe you moved locations, decided to change roles, or simply wanted a new challenge. However, if you were laid off from your previous job, you need to be honest.

Getting fired is nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, it’s more common than ever. In the aftermath of Covid-19 and the Great Resignation, we saw more tech job cuts in May 2022 than in the rest of the year combined, according to a report by MarketWatch.

Rising costs, increasing interest rates and inflation are the driving force behind a lot of firms’ decisions to cut costs and help their bottom lines. It’s also not uncommon for entire project teams to be let go as a company rationalizes and decides a particular business goal is no longer viable.

With a looming recession on the horizon, many of us will have to face these tough conversations with potential employers. But don’t worry: we’ve got the tips you need to turn a potentially awkward road to nowhere into an opportunity.

Deal with your emotions first

Getting laid off from a role is a disheartening and often stressful situation. It can really take its toll on you both financially and mentally. Before you start to apply for jobs and attend interviews, you need to deal with your emotions first. Things such as writing out how you’re feeling, or talking to a trusted friend or mentor can really help.

Once you start to feel good about yourself again, you’ll make a far better impression on your interviewer.

Less is more

Before you attend your interview, spend some time thinking about how you’ll talk about your last role. It helps if you can write down maybe two or three sentences to explain why you were let go.

For example, “Due to changing company priorities, my department was downsized. Unfortunately, this meant that my role was terminated.” When people are in job interviews, they tend to waffle. If you have a clear answer prepared, you won’t go off on a tangent when you’re nervous, or completely stall on the spot.

Keep it PG

We know this can be tricky, especially if you left your previous employment on a bad note. However, it is really important to stay calm and positive when talking about your last role. After all, the hiring manager is trying to figure out if you’re a team player. They’re also evaluating your resilience. So, be honest, keep your body language neutral and whatever you do, do not raise your voice.

Put some spin on it

The best way you can describe a termination is to steer the conversation away from why it happened and instead focus on what it taught you and how you dealt with the disappointment.

For example, “After I was let go, I realized that I needed to develop my skills in x area, in order to move up the career ladder. I enrolled in an online course and spent a lot of time on personal development.” Focus on what you’ve learned, and accept responsibility for any mistakes you made.

Don’t lie

There’s a big difference between putting a gloss on a bad situation and telling a lie. If you were fired for misconduct at work, don’t say that you quit on your own terms. Remember that your potential employer could contact your references or previous managers for more information, so don’t hide anything.

Finish on a high

To make sure that your meeting ends on a positive note, take a moment at the end of the chat to recap what you think you can bring to the organization. List out your key skills and attributes, focus on your development, and talk about how you can help them reach their goals.

Getting laid off is something that happens to millions of people around the world every single year. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it could make you a much better, more resilient employee in the long term.

Start your search for your next role on the House of Talent job board today

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.