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Interviewing After You're Let Go

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell 

Q: I was let go from my last job and don’t understand why. When a new president came on board, there was some restructuring, and my former boss was moved under a new VP. Perhaps that had something to do with my leaving. I know I will be asked why I am no longer there. What’s the best way to respond to that question?

A:  Yes, that will most likely be one of the first questions you’re asked in an interview. I am sorry that they weren’t clear about the reasons you were let go. 

You want to be sure that whatever reason you give is the same one your former employer will give if asked. Most organizations don’t release reasons for termination, but you don’t want to run the risk of your former organization being the one employer left that gives out that information.

If you haven’t done so, I suggest you contact your former HR department to ask what the organization’s policy is on providing references (or you can check the employee handbook if you still have it). Just to relieve any anxiety, I’d want to know this information.

The key to interviewing success in this situation is to immediately turn the conversation to why your skills and abilities are perfect for the job they have open.

When you’re interviewing for new positions, here’s a way to respond to the question: “While I loved my job and was passionate about the work, my responsibilities shifted due to a reorganization. After almost five years there, it seemed like the right time to move on.”

But don’t stop there. The key to interviewing success in this situation is to immediately turn the conversation to why your skills and abilities are perfect for the job they have open. In other words, you turn the conversation from the past to the future.

Try this: “My work experience and passion for the work that you do here make me an excellent fit for this position.” Then share some of your strengths or an example of when you’ve successfully handled some of the responsibilities of the open position.

In my experience, most hiring managers and recruiters do not ask a lot of follow-up questions about why you left your last job. They usually accept your response. Do your best to focus on what you bring to the new organization by showcasing the skills that will make a difference to the organization if you are the successful candidate.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR,The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and the latest book—The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].



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