Now You Can Explain Why You Got Laid Off Without Sabotaging Your Next Interview

layoffRumors are flying around that the editorial team at Thomson Reuters was laid-off this week, specifically those who scored lower than a four on their job reviews last year. Getting a pink slip is devastating and providing a poor explanation for why you were let go can sabotage your next job interview. Luckily, for these Reuters employees, the media has already tainted their candidacy for opportunities – THANK YOU! Talking Biz News. Ironically, my first job out of college was at Reuters and the firm laid me off following 9/11. Thankfully, I had a strong story to share regarding why I was let go. Not everyone is so “fortunate”.


In 2013, many employees will need to explain why they were dismissed.  During the first quarter of 2013 alone, 8% out of 18,000 employers nationwide surveyed plan to lay-off employees within the quarter. After having suffered a lay-off early-on in my career, I know what it is like when you are sitting at your desk sipping a warm cup of coffee, and all of a sudden the air thickens. You notice HR professionals hanging out with security guards and your heart drops. Only 17 days into Q1 and with more hearts dropping soon on the horizon, the need to consider why you were let go despite being a top performer can become more important. Thinking about your skills, the other displaced employees, as well as your personal commitment to your former job can spark compelling ideas.


Some once hot skills have lost their appeal. For example, flash technology skills were once sexy and today the most prominent device in the market does not support flash. Think about the skills that were no longer useful to your former employer. Identify companies who would salivate for someone with those skills or alternatively would be more interested in another one of the skills in your arsenal. Otherwise many technologies are displacing people. If perhaps your greatest contribution to your employer was doing something that can now be done with an app then that is a viable reason – just be sure that your prospective employer would find that information irrelevant or intriguing.


secrets-lawyers1If you were part of a massive layoff, think about what you share in common with the others who were let go. Sometimes lay-offs are laser-focused on top earners, middle managers, certain functions, etc. When you are let go as part of a group then your justification can center around a company’s strategic move to cut talent. For example, if many middle managers were let go then think through how the company’s decision to cut them was perhaps part of its need to reduce decision-makers. You can point to your own jurisdiction as a former manager and how you trained your subordinates to make more decisions on their own – both great for the company yet resulting in your own lay-off. Alternatively, if you were let go along with top earners in the company, you can explain how your CFO was faced with the need for drastic cuts so he opted to cut the top 1% earners.


Alternatively, if you know that you were let go because you were no longer passionate about your industry then share this truth in the event that you are looking to change careers. After years in a given industry, it’s okay to feel uninspired and when you are no longer passionate then your performance will suffer even unconsciously. Towards that end, the news industry has changed drastically. Fresh stories are harder to bring to market first than ever before. Today, journalists are competing with novices with a cell phone camera and Twitter handle. Imagine the pressure those journalists at Thomson Reuters faced. In this instance, the journalists – whose performance dipped as a result of their changing interests –  could share that explanation if it is truthful and if they can prove that their new interests lie in precisely the opportunities that they are pursuing.


daydreamThe most common challenge displaced employees face is getting over the guilt of thinking that it was their fault. Yet, after being displaced, it doesn’t matter as much as you may think. I encourage you instead to start your job search campaign by reading my carefully curated top five blogs. Afterwards, brainstorm the reason why you were laid off and share it with an objective third-party so that it passes the sniff test. It has to be believable. It can’t put you down and if it’s good, it should spark an employment conversation.

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

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