Custom Search

Why did you leave your last place of employment?

by Ken
(Philadelphia)

Mike-
I am a controller who was laid off by my employer last November. I am worried about answering the question of why I was laid off. My former employer sent a letter to the PA unemployment office stating I was let go due to downsizing.

A few months later a new person was hired in my old position. His LinkedIn profile shows he is the controller of my former company.

I am using the reason "laid off due to downsizing" based on my ex-employer's letter, but I am concerned that any new employer will check my claim by going to LinkedIn, inputting my former company name, and discovering that a new person with the same title is in my place.

During a phone screen should I say I have a letter stating I was laid off due to downsizing or should I take another approach?

Mike's Comments:

Sorry to hear of your job loss. Although this is a stressful time for you, at least your employer said you were laid off and allowed you to collect unemployment benefits. Most employees aren't so fortunate.

Some employers find it easier to "lay off" people rather than fire them as they worry about liability. If your employer didn't say he was firing you, and told you you were being laid off...then that's your answer.

The fact that they hired someone else a few months later shouldn't concern you. I realize how it looks, but maybe they picked up a big new account, or decided after they let you go that they really couldn't manage without this position.

You don't know the reasons.

You're telling the truth to prospective employers about your layoff status because that's what your ex-employer told you during your exit interview and they even gave you a letter.

On the other hand, if you were fired, here are a few resources on my site that can also help you formulate your answer:


I would not share the letter your ex-employer gave you with prospective employers unless they doubt your reason for leaving the company. If you share the letter too soon it will look like a cover up.

Lastly...sometimes no matter what you say, an interviewer will keep digging for the "real story". If you feel trapped in an interview after you've made a good effort to explain your departure, just collapse and explain that in addition to the reason you gave, things didn't work out because...whatever. Then let the chips fall where they may. This won't happen too often, but don't worry if it does.

I've seen lots of people get a job after they were fired or left a company under less than favorable circumstances.

FACT: 70% of the reason people don't get job offers is a poorly written resume, and doing poorly in a job interview setting. These are 2 things you have a lot of control over and can prepare for. If you're interview is going very well and your job loss becomes an issue, it now is a smaller problem because your interviewer is impressed with you. So always make sure you are well prepared for your job interview to make the best impression possible. This often trumps thorny problems.

Maybe someone else out there had a similar experience and can tell us how they overcame this.



Update 6-18-2011: I recently published a book to help the long term unemployed find a job, Why Don't They Call Me?-Job Search Wisdom to Get you Unstuck. Included in my book are scripts for networking, truths and myths about job search methods, and an extensive chapter on how social networking (LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter) can help you find a job. I also share with my readers numerous true life stories to validate the principles and concepts mentioned in my book.


Let me know if any of this was helpful to you. Also if you come across some good information to help others in the same boat, let me know so I can share it with my visitors.

All the best to you.

Mike Petras

My Job Board | About Me | Daily Blog | Site Map | Home Page

Comments for Why did you leave your last place of employment?

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Feb 19, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Follow up with Mike
by: Ken

Mike,

On a past interview in January I was interviewing with a company who did want to speak with my past supervisor even though I told him the policy or the company is only to give a netural reference. I did find out from the CFO of the company which hire another person ahead of me that my former supervisor did give a netural reference and did not have anything negitive to say but nothing postive to say either. I guess in the future I should just said my former supervisor can only give netural references and to used the other references that I have provided.

Feb 19, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Poor Reference from Supervisor
by: Mike Petras

Ken-
If you suspect your past supervisor could give you a bad reference, call him up and ask him not to. He probably wants to stay clear of any trouble and will only provide dates of employment.

Tell your x-supervisor that you've been searching for a job for 3 months in a tough job environment and you'd appreciate it if he would not give you a bad reference. He likely will agree to this.

I remember a Director level candidate who did very well in his interview. His x-supervisor gave him a poor reference and the company hired him anyway. When I asked the VP why he wasn't influenced by this poor reference, he told me he liked the candidate and you don't always get along with a former boss.

Usually companies won't call your references until the very end of the process when their mind is already made up that they want to hire you. It would take a really bad reference to eliminate you at that point. So, line up 2-3 good references and prepare well for interviews and I think you'll be fine.

Mike Petras

Feb 19, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Follow up with Mike
by: Ken

The company policy is it will give a netural reference mening job title and dates of employment. I have several references from my place of work per my former supervisor's premission but he my direct supervisor will only give dates of employment and job title. My references so far are individuals who worked under me and peers. Next week I am going to ask for a VP to give me a reference and also a letter of recommendation. What concern do you think I will have not having a postive reference from my supervisor.

Feb 19, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
LinkedIn Follow Up
by: Mike

Ken-
It's more likely that your future employer will look at your LinkedIn profile to see if it lines up with your resume. They will check dates of employment, education, and other items to make sure they agree.
There probably is less than a 10% chance your employer will go to your former employer's page to see if they've filled the position. Even if they do, so what? I don't think this one thing will eliminate you as a candidate if you perform well in your interview.
I think you're worrying too much about this. What you really need to be concerned about is your future company calling your x-employer for a reference. Do you know what their reference policy is? Most companies today will only provide dates of employment. You might want to check with your x-employer to make sure they have a similar policy.

Mike Petras

Feb 18, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Thanks Mike but I have a question?
by: Ken

My concern is that after the phone screen a possible employer will go into the LinkedIn account for my former employer, see that another contoller was hired and not believe my answer that I was layoff due to downsizing and I never hear from them again. Should I be concern that might happen?

Feb 18, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Thanks Mike but I have a question
by: Ken

Mike,

Do you believe after a phone screen employers will check the LinkedIn website for my former employer to fine out if my answer to the layoff which was downsizing is correct. I am concern that they will and discover that a new controller was put in place after a few months which means that my answer about the layoff downsizing is not true and I will be eliminated has a candidate.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Difficult Interview Questions You Dread.