How to Handle Being Laid Off

If you’ve been fired, laid off, or furloughed, your next steps are critical. This guide will help you clarify your situation, map out your plan, and prepare to talk about your job loss with ease and confidence in your next big interview.

How to handle being laid off final Big Interview

Being laid off or fired is a large and looming anxiety for many in the workforce. The Coronavirus pandemic unfortunately made this fear a reality for many. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report on the U.S. Employment Situation as of June 2021, the number of unemployed persons is currently 9.5 million. Of that number, 942,000 have left their jobs voluntarily, while 1.8 million are on temporary lay off and 3.2 million are permanent job losers.

Whether you have been laid off due to Coronavirus or other factors, you and millions of others are now in the position of figuring out what’s next after a job loss. Learning to job search, expand your skill set, and interview after a job loss are all excellent ways to prepare yourself for jumping back into the workforce.

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Chapter 1

What Does it Mean to Get Laid Off?

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Chapter 2

Why Were You Laid Off?

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Chapter 3

What to Do When You Get Laid Off

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Chapter 4

How to Explain Being Laid Off in an Interview

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Chapter 5

How to Explain Being Fired in an Interview

Chapter 1:

What Does it Mean to Get Laid Off?

We all have some idea of what it means to be fired, but what does it mean to get laid off? Is it merely a temporary situation? Is it due to performance issues? Is there a chance you can get your job back?

“Laid Off” Meaning

A worker who has been laid off is someone who has lost their job due to reasons such as:

  • The downsizing of the company
  • Insufficient work to do
  • Employer shut down or changed locations
  • Position or shift was eliminated

You may have seen your layoff coming, or it may have come as a complete surprise. But chances are, you did nothing wrong and the company had to make some tough choices about who to let go.

Getting laid off doesn’t mean your life is over, nor does it mean your career is completely and permanently derailed. Many people understand that layoffs happen by no fault of the person who was laid off and that you’ll get back on your feet in no time.

Furlough vs Laid Off

A furlough is a leave of absence that is understood to be temporary. The term “furlough” is most often used to describe time away from duty for those in the armed forces. It can also mean a temporary leave of absence from your job due to some difficulty, usually a financial difficulty on the part of the employer.

Laid Off vs Fired

Typically, a layoff is caused due to no fault of your own. As we discussed above, situations such as downsizing, changes in leadership, unforeseen global events, or the dissolution of certain departments, can all contribute to your job disappearing.

Being fired, on the other hand, is usually directly related to poor performance issues, insubordination, not being reliable, or other problems with professionalism and work ethic.

It is possible to be fired for unfair reasons, including personal biases or a refusal to participate in unethical behavior that could result in being terminated by unprincipled managers.

Will you get your job back?

Originally, the term “laid off” meant that the situation was temporary and you could expect to get your job back if the circumstances that caused the original layoff changed.

In current times, layoffs can be either temporary or permanent. If HR or whoever is laying you off is not clear about the terms of your loss of employment, make sure you ask them to clarify if it’s a temporary or a permanent layoff so you can plan your next steps accordingly.

Ready to land your Dream job?

Chapter 2:

Why Were You Laid Off?

Even if you do ask why you are being laid off, you may be given a safe and professional answer that doesn’t really address your question.

You may be told, “We really appreciate all you’ve done for the company, but we’re downsizing and have to let some people go.”

This may very well be true, but it doesn’t explain why you specifically were one of the people they decided to let go. Especially if other people were absorbed into other departments while you were given the ax. If this is the case in your circumstance, it’s time to do some evaluating by asking yourself some candid questions.

Am I bad at my job?

The worst has already happened, so there’s no sense in not being honest with yourself; are you bad at your job?

If the answer is yes, do some contemplating on why this is. Most people who are not good at their jobs are not good because they don’t care about what they do. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about something you straight up don’t like. Are you in the right industry or role within your industry? If you don’t think so, you’ve just been given a golden ticket to a brand new start. Take it and run with it.

Am I in over my head?

Did you get promoted before you were ready? Did you over-sell yourself in an interview and now have no idea how to do your job? Were you qualified, but didn’t know how to be a leader or get a team to respect you? If you were in over your head, it could have resulted in your layoff.

But there is no shame in knowing what you need to learn. You’ve just been given a blueprint for exactly how to succeed in your next role. Don’t waste the opportunity you’ve been given to improve.

man being lifted off of ground

Do I need some time off?

As inconvenient as a layoff is, it can also be a blessing in disguise. Have you been burning both ends of the candle, or just existing on autopilot without any real thought for how you’re spending your days?

Being laid off is a chance to ask yourself what you really want to be doing. Even if you loved the job you were laid off from, you still have the chance to build something better next time around.

Do I need to diversify my skill set?

If you were chosen to be laid off while others were not, do some thinking about what they had to offer the company that you do not.

You Can’t Afford to Fail Your Next Interview

Don’t throw away a golden opportunity to win a job because you were unprepared. Make all of your mistakes during practice so you can be 100% confident on interview day. Use our Mock Interview Practice Tool to simulate interviews in real-time and master your interview skills.
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Are your skills outdated? Do you only have a small skill set and the company needs someone with a more diverse range of skills? Were you too inflexible when it came to learning new things or taking on projects outside your comfort zone?

Take the time you now have to broaden your knowledge, diversify and get even better at what you do by expanding your knowledge. The more skills you have, the more valuable you will be to your next employer and the more immune you will be to future layoffs.

Ready to land your Dream job?

Chapter 3:

What to Do When You Get Laid Off

For most of us, our lives have revolved around school and then work. Every weekday has been scheduled and structured since kindergarten, with clear directives on what was expected and what would happen next.

If you’re facing an unexpected layoff, all of that sudden unstructured time can feel like a yawning abyss waiting to swallow you up.

To keep yourself from becoming completely untethered, have a basic game plan.

Evaluate your financial situation

The first concern on everyone’s mind when they get laid off is how they are going to make ends meet. The first thing you should do when you lose your job is figure out where you stand financially. What kind of shape you’re in will determine your next steps.

Start by making a plan based on these factors:

How much money goes out every month – if you don’t keep meticulous books, you may not know the exact figure of what you have going out vs what you have coming in every month. This is the first thing you’ll need to figure out.

Trim the fat – once you know what your expenses are, you’ll know what you can trim down on. Do you need a subscription to 5 streaming services, or can you cancel them all and use your friend’s Netflix account for a while? Do you need to get HelloFresh delivered to your door, or can you learn to make some simple meals on your own with a few ingredients? Figure out where your surplus is and trim it down.


How much money do you have right now? – Look up all of your accounts, savings, checking, stock portfolios, etc., and figure up how long you can live on what you currently have. This will give you the number you need to work backward from. For instance, if you have enough money to last 5 months, ideally you will have a job in 4 months so as not to cut it too close to the bone. But you know you have that extra month if you truly need it. Now you can figure out what the next 4 months are going to look like.

Discuss your lay off with your partner or those you live with – if you live with roommates or a partner and are responsible for a portion of the bills, your unemployed status will affect them. Discuss what the plan will be, how many months you can cover, and what your Plan B is if you can’t find a job in time. This may be a good time to downsize, start an Airbnb in the spare bedroom, or take on another roommate to help with the bills.

Begin your next steps

After evaluating your financial situation and what you want and need from your career, it’s time to plan your next steps.

If you are choosing to take some time off to figure out what you want, don’t just spend all your time coasting. Have new experiences, talk to friends in different industries, journal, think about why you’ve made the career decisions you’ve made up until now. Let your discoveries guide you into what you want to do next.

If you have only a set number of months before you need to be making a steady income again, map out what you will be doing to advance your job search every day until then.

Begin networking, organizing your job search, and figuring out if there are some small jobs you can get in the meantime.

Has your buddy been asking you to build him a website for months? Call him up and discuss a rate. Are you a part of any organizations that may be looking for some part-time help? See what you can work out. Having something coming in is better than nothing coming in. Just make sure you will also have time and energy to devote to your job search.

Ready to land your Dream job?

Chapter 4:

How to Explain Being Laid Off in an Interview

Gaps between jobs happen for all kinds of reasons. If there has been a span of time between your last job and the job you’re seeking, it’s almost guaranteed that your interviewer will ask about it.

Hiring managers understand that layoffs happen. Especially with global situations like the recent pandemic, it is expected that many people have been out of work.

There is no reason to be nervous about talking about your lay off honestly. Even if you were fired, you can discuss leaving your last job in a calm and reasonable manner that won’t raise any red flag.

How to Talk About Being Laid Off in an Interview – Sample Answer #1

I’m actually glad you brought that up, it’s something I wanted to discuss. My last company downsized after losing a very big client that made up the majority of their revenue. Unfortunately, I was one of their newest hires and so was among the first to be let go. I loved the opportunities I had there to learn more about designing ad campaigns and I took the time from my unexpected layoff to earn a certificate in digital marketing with an emphasis in social media ads. I’m excited that this role will include those skills, as it’s become one of my favorite parts of the marketing process.

Why This is a Good Answer

This answer doesn’t shy away from the circumstances, but meets them confidently and head-on. The candidate talks about why they were laid off, what they learned from the job, and how they have used their time off to gain a new skill that will directly benefit the employer if hired.

Note that they said nothing negative about their former employer and kept their answer brief, professional, and full of helpful facts without raising any red flags.

How to Talk About Being Laid Off in an Interview – Sample Answer #2

Like a lot of folks, I was laid off about 6 months into the pandemic. At first, I was a bit unmoored, there were a lot of different balls in the air to manage. But I took the time to learn to code, which has always been an interest of mine, and discovered I really love it. My past experience as a Project Manager really helps me during projects to stay really organized and set up lead metrics that keep my output and efficiency really strong.

Why This is a Good Answer

This answer also faces the question matter-of-factly and describes the initiative taken when faced with adversity. This candidate is also trying to change careers after a layoff which adds an extra challenge to landing the new role. However, having lost their previous job to the pandemic–a situation that has affected many, many job seekers and has caused them to re-evaluate their work lives–the timing is great to make this kind of career switch.

You Can’t Afford to Fail Your Next Interview

Don’t throw away a golden opportunity to win a job because you were unprepared. Make all of your mistakes during practice so you can be 100% confident on interview day. Use our Mock Interview Practice Tool to simulate interviews in real-time and master your interview skills.
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The candidate shows several competencies in this answer — the ability to take initiative, keep their head under pressure, make the best out of a rough situation, and demonstrate organization and time management skills by weaving their experience from their past role into the answer.

Ready to land your Dream job?

Chapter 5:

How to Explain Being Fired in an Interview

Talking about being fired in an interview is a little different from discussing being laid off. Being fired usually has more stigma surrounding it and can put the hiring manager on the lookout for red flags from the get-go.

Your job is going to be putting them at ease with your answer and demonstrating that you are not a risky hire, even with a termination in your background.

The most important points to keep in mind when talking about being fired in an interview are:

Don’t talk negatively about your previous employer – even if they were a nightmare to work with and fired you unfairly. Using negative language translates as being unprofessional, so keep your language neutral and professional, even if you have a lot of feelings about the way you were let go.

If you were not fired for performance issues, make that very clear – you don’t want to say too much and risk raising red flags, but you should be very clear about the reasons that did not play into you being fired, especially if they had nothing to do with how well you did your job.

Find a way to highlight what you learned – if you were fired for performance or issues with professionalism, draw attention to how you’ve grown and applied what you’ve learned from the experience. Showing that you understand what happened and that you used it as a means to improve yourself will help the hiring manager feel like being fired was an isolated incident and that you won’t be a risky hire.

Be honest, but don’t overshare – we’re all humans on planet earth doing the best we can. Hiring managers understand that things arise that are difficult. Tell the truth about your circumstances, but do so tactfully and carefully, emphasizing the steps you took to overcome your difficulties.

How to Talk About Being Fired in An Interview – Sample Answer #1

I was fired from my last position because I was struggling a bit in my personal life and unfortunately wasn’t able to completely leave it at the door when I came to work. Since then, I have resolved my personal issues through therapy and taking some time off to regroup. I have learned how to manage my stress and balance my life so that I can show up to work with good boundaries and be 100% present.

Why This is a Good Answer

This answer illustrates the “be honest, but not too honest” approach. The candidate explains how they were struggling, the resulting consequences of poor boundaries, and what they have done to resolve them.

From this answer, the hiring manager could see this is a person who learns from their mistakes and took actions to fix issues that were disrupting their life. These are all good indicators that the candidate would not have any issues going forward and they are safe to hire.

How to Talk About Being Fired in An Interview – Sample Answer #2

I was hired at XYZ Company as a Data Entry Clerk and already had experience using their database program, so it was a great fit for me. However, about 2 years after I was hired a new manager came into the department and changed our database program. He expected me to head up the migration process and act as a Database Manager. When I explained I could not do this job effectively without further training or outside help, I was deemed unfit for the position and dismissed. It saddened me because I wanted to help, but there wasn’t much room for discussion, unfortunately.

Why This is a Good Answer

The candidate in this answer was fired unfairly. They were hired for a specific job and were good at their job, but then they were suddenly expected to do something much more technical and outside of their skillset. Willing to help, but articulating their need for further support, they were fired under the guise of being ineffective at their job when the role of Database Manager was never their role to start with.

The candidate gave the facts of the situation without placing blame or speaking negatively, and making it clear they were not fired for performance issues or from a lack of wanting to help.


Whether getting laid off was a surprise or something you saw coming, it will be an unsettling time. However, you have a lot of options at your disposal and the potential of a whole new life. Take some time to consider why you were laid off (or fired) and what you want out of your work life. Next, make a plan based on your financial situation and career goals. Then simply put that plan into action and begin the next step of the rest of your life.

You Can’t Afford to Fail Your Next Interview

Don’t throw away a golden opportunity to win a job because you were unprepared. Make all of your mistakes during practice so you can be 100% confident on interview day. Use our Mock Interview Practice Tool to simulate interviews in real-time and master your interview skills.
I’m Ready to Land a Job

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