How to explain why I was laid off?


Dear Working Wise:

I was recently laid off from my job unfairly. I had worked for this company for over six months. During that time, I introduced a number of successful projects, including one that saved the company nearly one full-time position. That project was so successful that the president of the company asked me to work on another big project. But, I think my supervisor was jealous. As soon as the president went on vacation, my supervisor laid me off. Now, I’m angry. How can I explain what happened at my next job interview? Signed, Furious

Dear Furious:

It doesn’t sound like you were treated very nicely at your last job.

And, you are right, you will need to change how you feel about what happened, before you can talk about it in a job interview.

I think the key is to stick to the facts that you know instead of guessing what motivated your supervisor. You need a short, simple answer for why you were laid off.

You said that you saved the company nearly one full-time-equivalent position. It sounds like you could possibly have worked yourself out of a job. That’s a great reason for leaving—one that will thrill other employers.

You may also be deluding yourself into thinking that it was jealousy and not something you did that lead to your lay off. You need to be honest with yourself about why you were let go.

Employees need to be productive and good team members. If you contributed to your departure, you need to accept it, learn from it, and be able to explain to your next employer why you will not make the same mistake.

Regardless, you need a short simple and accurate answer for your departure from your last job to prevent you from plunging into a negative story about your last supervisor.

Negative talk about past jobs or supervisors triggers red flags for interviewers. No employer wants drama in their workplace, so keep your answers positive.

Check with your old supervisor to see if he will provide you with a positive job reference or letter of recommendation? If not, ask the president since he had so much confidence in you.

That way, you can walk into your next interview with a list of accomplishments to talk about, a good reason for leaving, and a good reference.

Focus on all of the great things you did while you were with the company and provide your short, simple answer for your departure.

If you would like further help preparing for your next job interview, contact your local Alberta Works Centre. They offer advice, books and free workshops on resumés, job interviews and job searches.

You can also check out the job interview tips on the Alberta Learning Information Service web site at

Good luck!

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human Services. This column is provided for general information.