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How to explain a layoff in an interview 1

How to explain a layoff in an interview

There’s no easy way to put it. Being laid off is one of the worst situations for a professional. However, layoffs are becoming more and more common in the tech industry. Recently,

the disrupted economy is putting pressure on tech giants like Amazon forcing a large number of layoffs. Hence, if you’ve been laid off , you might be feeling anxious about explaining the situation to a future employer.

Firstly, you may not have much to fear because, given that you are in the tech industry, recruiters and hiring leaders may already be aware of the situation at your previous organization. It is even a practice to share the secret “layoff lists” among recruiters so that companies looking for talent can easily headhunt. 

If that’s not enough to help you feel better about your present situation, here are some tips for answering the question to highlight your strengths and easily navigate through a typically unfavorable situation.

1. Be honest

As there is a ripple effect in the industry due to mass layoffs most recruiters are aware of the situation. If you’re planning to justify your case, that is not advisable. Instead, come clean and explain that the gap in your employment is due to downsizing at your last organization.

You must not try to cover up if you were laid off because sooner or later the recruiter will find the truth, and the consequences will be unfavorable. For instance, recently, Accenture India fired several employees for lying about their experience in their resumes. Honesty is the best policy here; you must not feel intimidated to share the truth about being sacked.

2. Address the issue only if it’s required

Believe that your recruiter may not ask about the employment gap. It is ideal to wait for the recruiter to bring up the issue only if they need to know. Being laid off is a topic that makes people feel insecure or nervous, and it’s natural to feel that way, but when you bring it up by yourself, it might create uneasiness between you and the recruiter during the interview.

3. Answer assertively but positively

So it could happen – the recruiter might ask you some questions related to your layoff. A common mistake that candidates make is trying to evade such questions. This is a bad idea. It shows that you’re letting your resentment or embarrassment about the lay off take hold of your emotions and affect your judgement.

Instead, assertively communicate about the situation and the events that led to your lay off but never badmouth your last organization or portray any negative attitude. During behavioral interview questions, you must maintain a positive tone. If you don’t know, here’s an example:

The impending pandemic affected many companies, and my organization was one of them. The company had to face unrepairable financial losses forcing it to lay off 30% of its employees to remain operational. Given the situation, I respect their decision and understand the action taken. I am excited to use my experience and expertise to benefit your organization and find myself growing in the role.

4. Keep it simple

You must be careful when we say you should be honest and positively elaborate on your situation. Getting carried away in the details can easily unravel your confidence. Keep your answers simple, short, and factual. If you go on rambling, it is a sign of insecurity, and your recruiter might get the impression that you are being dishonest. Furthermore, interviews are relatively short, and you want to save time hanging onto a negative aspect of the whole interview. This is why when you bring up this topic early; it keeps the spotlight short. You get the opportunity to show the recruiters that you have a lot to offer professionally, and the layoff was an unfortunate run-in during such turbulent times.

5. Talk about the skills you acquired during your time off 

Getting laid off can impact the confidence of even the most skilled professionals. In practice, you must utilize your time to hone your skills or add to your experience. This will also help you during the interview when you explain how you have used your time wisely to learn skills that added to your value as an employee. It is also a way to show your interviewer that you are mature and rational enough to make an opportunity out of adverse situations. Whether you have taken temporary roles, volunteered, or taken classes and courses to learn more relevant skills, let your interviewer know about them.


Losing your job out of the blue can be a traumatic experience and can throw you off your track. However, it’s not the end of the road. It’s just a minor hiccup that requires wise use of time off and efficiently navigating the narrative during interviews. These tips will help you answer most positively and convincingly.

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Shraddha Sinha

Shraddha Sinha

Senior Marketing Manager at Talent500. Practical, light-hearted and witty. Mom to a young toddler and has endless patience. Can talk about memes and motherhood endlessly.

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