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If you’ve lost your job — or are going to lose your job — the last thing that you want to talk about is “why” you lost your job. In fact, the question “Why did you leave your last job?” is one of the toughest questions to deal with especially if you’ve been let go in one form or another.
If you are among the thousands of people who have been laid off in the last year and a half, you can simply state: “I was laid off.”
This answers the question but still leaves a lingering doubt in the mind of the interviewer, “Why were you laid off?” The more specific your answer, the more effective it will be.
“There were six rounds of layoffs at my last company. I survived five rounds, but when it came to round six they had to cut deep. My position was eliminated along with half of my group because the project we were working on was cancelled.”
Not everyone will have such a definite statement to make. Whatever your situation is it will be helped by including facts and figures to explain the circumstances surrounding your layoff.
“10% of the workforce was let go,” or “One out of every ten jobs was affected, company-wide.”
When you quantify a statement it has more depth. When you tell the interviewer whether it was 10 or 1000 people were laid off helps put the situation in perspective.
If you were fired, you probably dread being asked this question. Not only have you been fired, you have to talk about it over and over. How you deal with questions about being fired will depend on how you have resolved the issue with yourself.
Here are examples of how two candidates answer the question:
“I had a great boss, but he left. From the very beginning it was clear that my new boss and I were going to be at odds. We just had different types of personalities. She kept changing the rules. One day she would want it this way, and the next day another way,” rambled Karen. “I don’t usually have problems with bosses but this woman was really overbearing in her management approach.”
This is not the best way to present the situation. This candidate could be classified as a “whiner.” Badmouthing former employers during the interview is a bad idea. No one wants to hear about someone else’s shortcomings, particularly someone they don’t even know.
A better example of how to handle the situation:
“I was let go after a major reorganization. The merging of different cultures had caused a major change in the way things were done. There were some differences of opinion between my boss and myself and, in the end, I was fired.. I take responsibility for my part in the way things turned out. I learned a lot from the experience, and in retrospect, I would have handled it differently. But, that is behind me now, and I am ready to move on with a new perspective.”
This is a much better answer because it demonstrates strength and self-confidence. Candidate #2 takes responsibility and deals with the question honestly.
Whether you were let go under unfair circumstances or for something you did and regret, scripting your answer ahead of the interview will help you. You don’t want to bad-mouth your former employer or sound like a victim (even if you were). Practice your answer with someone in a mock interview and obtain feedback on your comfort-level while discussing your situation.
Probably the worst way to handle this question is by lying. One lie usually leads to another, and before you know it you are in over your head. You always take a chance whenever you put a lie on an application. The application usually has a signature line on the back where you sign, stating that the above is true, and that any false statements could be grounds for termination.
It is a fact that people lose their jobs everyday. They move on and get new jobs. And, you will too. No matter what the circumstances, put it behind you and move on. Deal with your feelings about the lay off or firing, and prepare your answer to the question before it is asked. Being prepared will make you feel more confident and less emotional about the situation.