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I got laid off. It was unexpected, and my boss didn't even know it would happen until the week of, and I was the only one (small company).

Before getting laid off, I had considered applying for a newly open position. However, because of the way I had seen executive decisions being made in the past, I didn't think I would be successful at it. Several orange flags around that position, and I was planning to look for new work at the end of the year anyway (because of those orange flags).

Now I am applying for similar jobs to the one that is still open at the previous company. I don't want to sound critical of my former employers, especially since some of them offered their recommendations, but I don't know what to say during an interview if I am asked about it. I'm afraid that, without context, it looks like I was fired because I wasn't good enough to be promoted from within.

How do I address this during an interview if it ever comes up?


Extra Context, if needed: I work in both design and development, and the open position was more on the design side of things. Over the last year, I had been gravitating towards more development work because design was never a real focus for the company. The executive team's interests were always in rapid development and less around design. I rarely was given the time required to do both well, as we always had tight deadlines. I thought it was odd they were creating a new design position, and I didn't think it was a role set up for success (it would not have been the first ambitious/misdirected hire made during my time there).

Now I am looking to steer my career back towards design again, with a company that values good design and user experience as much as I do.

I can obviously go into a lot more detail, but only if people think it is relevant to my question: How do I explain during an interview why I am applying for similar jobs to an open position at my previous company?

  • You have almost answered your question: "Given the company's focus on development I felt the design position would not have the influence it should." – user1008090 Dec 7 '17 at 21:31
  • "I was laid off" doesn't require any explanation of why you did or did not apply for other positions at that company. I doubt mentioning another position that you considered applying for (or actually applied for, or were seriously considered for) would help in any way. Mentioning your desired career focus switch would make sense. – Dukeling Dec 7 '17 at 21:45
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I'm not aware of anyone who asks, in an interview "Hey, wouldn't you like to work a similar position to ours with the company that laid you off?"

First of all, they want you for their position.

Secondly, a company that lays someone off is, to the person laid off, a company with a track record of employment insecurity, so I don't think they'd assume you'd favor that.

I can't envision a scenario where that would be brought up by an interviewing company. If you were currently employed at the previous company, they might ask why you want to leave that company (to assess your motivations and priorities, not to suggest that you stay - and the answer often is "I don't want to leave, necessarily, but your company/opportunity is attractive enough for me to consider it."), or why you left your previous job (if no longer employed there), or why you want to work for them (will almost always ask).

But "Hey, why don't you want to work this kind of position with another specific company?" Good workers are hard enough for companies to find, without them steering potential candidates to other opportunities or suggesting alternatives to their position that a candidate might not have considered.

If I were wooing a potential dating partner, I'd never suggest to them that they could go on a similar date with a former flame, know what I mean? It's simply not going to happen.

But if it does, "I was already laid off at the company because of general instability there. I'm looking for an opportunity and a company on more solid ground."

  • Ok, I guess the question would be "Why did the company lay you off instead of promoting from within?" Still not a question that I see coming up though, you're right. I just like to be prepared. – Eric Dec 7 '17 at 23:43
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    @Eric - That's unrelated to whether or not you choose to pursue a position, currently, with your former company. You're right, they will probably ask about the layoff, but companies do that (eliminate positions). The fact that you have positive recommendations from managers at that company will attest to the fact that it was simply a structural reconfiguration that axed your then-position, and not an issue with you as a worker, so you shouldn't have too much to worry about. But certainly be prepared for the question, for sure. – PoloHoleSet Dec 8 '17 at 14:43
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How do I explain during an interview why I am applying for similar jobs to an open position at my previous company?

No need to give lengthy explanations. Just state the facts and say that you are still interested in this career path, but that your previous company was shifting into other directions, and you wanted a more stable environment.

You even say that your former managers offered you recommendations (you did take them right?), so I doubt they may think that you were laid off due to problems or performance.

However, if you feel they are thinking this way after stating what suggested before, be sure to provide the context needed for them to understand the situation. Again, no need to be critical on anybody, try to keep it brief. Most interviews are more about what you can bring to this company, and recruiters usually don't linger much on questions and speculations about your past companies.

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The question you'll be asked is, "Why did you leave your last company?" and it's your answer that will determine what other questions come from this. Focus on that answer, and be sure it's accurate, well-considered, and not basd around criticism of your former employer. It doesn't seem likely that anyone is going to dig into what positions were available at the time that you left, or even are open at the moment.

If you do get the question you're concerned about, it looks like you already have the answer in hand. Reading your question and context, I'd say your answer is something like, "It didn't seem like the new position was set up for success. They were more development focused with much less emphasis around design and user experience, which is where my passion lies and why I'm very interested in the role we're talking about." This is a reasonable, accurate answer from your perspective, and illustrates that you understand that people need support in order to be successful in their roles, and that you understand some of that is cultural and structural ... and shifts the focus back to the role at hand.

Good luck!

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