Explaining Job Loss: Be brief, Be positive


In the course of your job search, you’ll almost certainly be asked the question about why you left your last job. In fact, some recruiters may ask you walk them through your entire resume. Prepare a response to this question that is honest and yet forward-looking. Don’t pause or appear taken aback. Watch your sighs and deep breaths. They can hear you bracing for a story. Speak confidently and keep it short and simple. Rambling or taking longer than necessary looks like there was trouble or you’re covering something up. Your goal is to portray confidence so they remember what you said not what your tone and actions might have said to the contrary.

Keep a positive demeanor. You know the saying that it’s a small world, right? Assume that the person you’re speaking with is close friends with your former boss. That may not be a stretch in small market or industry. Nearly every person will have lost a job at some point in their career. It is nothing to be embarrassed about and could be the key to finding something much better in a healthier environment. Go into your search and interviews with that approach and mindset. The more you speak to friends and family in terms of opportunity rather than loss, the more you will convince yourself, as well.

Below are sample scripts you can customize for a few situations contributing to job loss:

Reduction in Force

“In the face of lost market share, our division was required to eliminate $20 million in annual expenses. The organization determined that some functions could be consolidated. As a result, dozens of positions were eliminated, and mine was one of those affected.”

Leadership Realignment

Mergers, acquisitions, and senior leadership changes are often followed by staff realignment. If you have experienced this, likely everyone you speak with will have had similar experiences in their personal lives or known close acquaintances to whom it’s happened. This is a relatable explanation and remember to stay positive:

As circumstances changed and a new vision was communicated, it became clear that our new leadership team valued a different skill set going forward. I’m proud of my achievements and am looking forward to my next opportunity where my XXXX expertise will help drive results for my next employer.

Remember to be confident and forward-looking. Negative comments about a former employer or leader leads the listener to assume you would also speak that way within their organization.

Economic Situation or Pandemic

Losing your job because of a major health crisis or serious economic downtown can be devastating. If there is any silver lining, it may be that it is an easier story to tell about why you are looking for your next position. Here is a simple and clear response:

As millions [hundreds, dozens, whichever the case may be] of other people, I found myself unexpectedly in the market because of [event]. I understand that you may have higher volumes of applicants given the current economic situation and greatly appreciate being considered for this role. What differentiates me from your other candidates is my ability to [insert something you are proud of and can back up from your resume or past achievements].

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