How to Explain a Past Layoff to a Future Employer

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A past layoff can be an obstacle during the job search. It can be an uncomfortable subject to talk about, particularly if it happened under bad circumstances or caused significant financial distress. By practicing your explanation before you head into an interview, you can handle the layoff conversation with grace and poise.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when talking about a past layoff is to stay positive. Your future employer does not need to know that you fell into a deep depression or that you had to move in with your parents to survive financially. He does not need to know your opinion about your former employer. When a layoff happened under harsh or cruel circumstances, it can be difficult to avoid speaking negatively. Badmouthing the company only makes you look petty; instead, stick to the facts, and leave your personal feelings out of the conversation.

During an interview, an employer may ask you why you left your last position. If you are caught off guard by the question, it can be difficult to form a coherent, positive answer. Rehearse an answer that briefly explains the past layoff and transitions into how you would like to move forward. You might mention how you used the unexpected free time to develop a new professional skill, and let the employer know what you are looking for in a new job. In focusing on how you turned a negative situation into an opportunity for growth, you show the employer that you are motivated and enthusiastic.

Another way to deflect attention from a past layoff is to highlight your contributions to the company. After you have explained the situation, move on quickly to the things you accomplished. Use hard numbers whenever possible to demonstrate what you bring to the table. Do not say that you boosted sales; say that you boosted sales by 40 percent in three months. Think about the things that went well in your past job, and use them to portray yourself as an effective employee.

Being laid off is not an uncommon situation; it happens every day, particularly when times are tough. During a job search, resist the urge to apologize or over-explain a past layoff. The future employer is just as interested in your attitude as he is in the layoff itself. By staying calm and collected, you demonstrate that you can handle tough situations without losing your cool.

When you are interviewing for a new job, it is important to remember that a past layoff is nothing to be ashamed of. By sticking to the facts and steering the conversation into more productive territory, you show a future employer that you are a grounded, realistic professional and a positive addition to the company.

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