How To Answer Why You Left Your Job If You Were Laid Off

Updated March 29, 2023

Employers often ask questions in interviews to learn why you're looking for a new job. Explaining why you left your most recent job after a layoff may feel difficult to explain while remaining respectful to the organization you left. Learning how to discuss your layoff while highlighting your strengths or skills may help you emphasize your potential as a candidate and show what you learned from the experience.

In this article, we discuss why employers ask why you left your previous job, offer a step-by-step guide for answering why you left if your previous company laid you off and provide example answers to help you create your own.

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Why employers ask why you left your last job

Employers ask why you left your last job to understand your motivations for looking for a new job. Providing specific reasons why you left your job helps them better understand you and your relationship with your previous employer.

For example, your response may indicate if you left voluntarily or because of a firing or layoff. The way you speak about your previous employer also shows if you may still have a good relationship with the organization and your perspective about it.

Related: How To Answer Why You Left Your Last Job (With Examples)

How to answer "Why did you leave your last job?" if you were laid off

Use this guide to help you answer why you left your last job if the job laid you off:

1. Be honest

Employers are generally understanding about layoffs. Be honest about why you left, and share that your previous company had layoffs that affected you. It's important to only frame leaving your job as a layoff if the company truly laid you off, not if they fired you, to represent your situation accurately. Your honesty may help develop a sense of respect between the interviewer and you.

Related: What Is the Difference Between Fired and Laid Off?

2. Remain positive

It's important to speak positively about your previous employer and the situation that caused your departure. Speak positively about those you worked with, and be sympathetic about the fact that they had to make the difficult decision to lay off employees. This shows the interviewer your respect for your previous employer and helps make a good impression.

3. Keep the explanation brief

While it's essential to mention your layoff, try to move on to other, more important topics as quickly as possible. Keep your explanation concise, and focus on the key details. Explain why the layoff happened, but be mindful of not revealing any proprietary details about your former employer and continuing to speak positively about it.

4. Use numbers

Sharing data to help represent how significant the impact of the layoff was. For example, you may share the number of employees your former employer laid off or provide a percentage of employees from your team it laid off.

This helps the interviewer understand the context of the layoff better. For example, it may show them you weren't the only employee laid off or if the organization eliminated your entire department.

Related: What It Means To Be Laid Off

5. Highlight your work

When discussing your layoff, focus on what you achieved when working for your former employer. Talk about your responsibilities and typical projects, and highlight specific metrics you achieved.

This reaffirms the decision to lay you off likely wasn't based on performance. Consider creating a portfolio with samples to offer to the interviewer to review to see your work for themselves.

It may also be helpful to have references available for the interviewer to speak with to confirm your skills. Select former managers and coworkers you want to ask to be a reference for you, and contact them as you begin your job search.

Mention to the interviewer that you have references who are happy to speak on your behalf if necessary. This shows you have others who believe in your qualifications and ability to succeed.

6. Show you added value

Your interview responses and resume allow you to demonstrate how you added value to your previous employer. Focus on the accomplishments that impacted your department or the company, particularly quantifiable results.

For example, explain what you accomplished that improved quality, saved money or resolved operational problems for your organization. Provide specific examples and anecdotes that illustrate your accomplishments.

Related: How To Write About Being Laid Off on a Resume in 9 Steps

7. Discuss how you advanced your skills

A company laying you off may provide you time to develop new or improve existing skills. Continue discussing your layoff by sharing what you've done since the layoff, such as courses you completed or contract work you completed. This helps demonstrate your commitment to professional development and your desire to be effective in your role.

Related: 16 Steps To Take After Getting Let Go From Your Job

8. Explain what you learned

It may be helpful to view and explain your layoff as a learning opportunity. This may show the interviewer that you are resilient and have a positive attitude about your experience. Discuss what you learned from it and how it motivated you to continue to pursue success in your career.

9. Address it yourself

There's a chance an interviewer might not ask you about the resume gap during your interview. It may be worthwhile to address it yourself or discuss it in the interview before they do.

This may help you feel more in control of your response and avoid any stress you might feel about the topic. It may also show the interviewer your confidence, honesty and initiative, reinforcing how you learned from the experience and are looking to advance your career.

Related: How To Explain Your Reasons for Leaving a Job

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Example answers

Review these example answers to help you prepare your own answer about leaving a job after a layoff:

Example 1: Content writer

"I left my job at Coopersfield Digital Marketing because of a layoff. The company laid me off because of internal restructuring. Upper management decided to outsource its content writing services to focus more on web development and SEO services, eliminating its need for an in-house content department.

"After the layoff, I've been working on improving my SEO skills through online courses. During my time at the company, I wrote blogs and webpages with an SEO focus, but I want to understand more about how SEO principles and algorithms work. I'm happy to provide you with a portfolio of samples of my work or share the contact information for my previous manager to discuss my work ethic and the internal structuring changes."

Example 2: Call center worker

"I'm looking for a new job because of layoffs at Central Utility Company. I worked in the call center, but the company noticed a significant decrease in customers calling for help. Instead, many customers used our chatbot features or found answers through the website's content. The company decided to reduce call center employees by 75%, affecting my position.

"This layoff inspired me to learn more about customer service practices and project management. I had a 95% customer satisfaction rate and consistently met deadlines, and I'm ready for a new challenge in my career. I enrolled in online courses to learn more about project management to improve my skills. I'm applying for this customer service specialist position to allow me to apply my skills in a new way and to continue to develop professionally."

Example 3: Sales representative

"Sterling Solar Power identified a reduced need for sales representatives in the Southwest because of a high level of customers already served. It reduced the number of employees in this division by 75%, which resulted in my layoff.

The company offered for me to relocate to the Northeast region because of my high earnings, but it's important to me to stay local because of my family. My former manager is happy to speak with you about this offer, if necessary.

"When I worked for Sterling, I consistently exceeded my sales goals by an average of 30% per quarter. Since my layoff, I've learned more about new sales techniques in different industries, and I've learned a lot about software sales to help prepare me for this role. I'm happy to share a sample sales strategy I created that I believe would be effective for this job."

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