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I got laid off 4 month ago due to the economical reasons of the company. In my cancellation contract, it is clearly mentioned that:

I am being layoff due to the restructuring of Employer activities. So, my position got redundant.

Also, it says,

The company has decided to lay me off, because i had the least experience and skills in my team.

sadly, my ex-employer will not say good things about me to the other employers. However, I am sure, I always did my best for my employer. Please, read this question.


Recently, I was invited to a HR interview, and the HR told me (beforehand), he wants to know about my success, and failure stories in my previous company.

I want to be very honest with him, but I also don't want to minimize my chance to get the job. So, I know being laid off is not a bad thing by itself (especially when I have written contract which explains the reason), but I do not want to make HR suspicious, so he will not refer to the ex-employer.

So, how may I explain it to him?

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    Note that in my experience there isn't a strong culture in Germany to contact previous employers. To the best of my knowledge no company I worked for or interviewed with did contact any of my previous employers. Perhaps they do a quick-check whether the reason you mention fits what the company answers, but from my experience that chance is low and even lower for them asking about further details - unless they explicitly ask for reference contact details. P.S. You might include the location information into the question so other people see it without reading the comments on that first answer. – Frank Hopkins Feb 24 at 22:52
  • i was layedoff, and i was forced to leave. maybe, i did not choose to leave.Sorry, i should be more precise in my words.@JoeStrazzere – Salman Lashkarara Feb 25 at 1:15
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    "wants to know failure stories". I believe they are more asking about "projects" you did that failed, not so much "I got fired" – Fattie Feb 25 at 13:19
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This is one of those places where candor is the best policy.

You tell them the truth.

You show them the paperwork from the ex-employer.

They restructured, they decided you were the easiest to lose. It hurts, but it is not fatal.

When they ask you, focus on success stories.

You do not say where you live. In the US, there are very strong limits on what the ex-employer can say about former employees, if they want to avoid very unpleasant lawsuit.

  • The HR is in Germany, and my ex-employer is Estonian. So, European culture. – Salman Lashkarara Feb 24 at 21:37
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    @SalmanLashkarara due to the new General Data Protection Regulations close to all companies will avoid calling the former employer and even more will avoid to say anything at all about previous employees. – user70925 Feb 25 at 13:02
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    I think this excellent answer has an important point missing. Besides focusing on successes, you need to be able to discuss failure. Failure is a great learning tool. Prepare stories of "failures" where you were able to take something positive away from the experience. When asked about failure, don't dismiss the question or try a tricky answer. Be frank, describe a time you failed, but then also describe what you learned, what you changed, or how you grew because of your failure. People who only focus on success come off as disingenuous, shallow, or as having very poor self awareness. – dwizum Feb 25 at 14:41
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Germans do not call or contact ex-employers, except when they suspect fraud. Then they might verify date of employment and title.

You have it in writing that you were laid off because the company restructured. You have it in writing that they chose you because you were the most inexperienced on the team.

That is the normal of the normal. That is the way it goes sometimes. That would not make me blink, or doubt anything. I would only wonder why they chose you to make redundant if you had been anything but the junior on the team.

When Germans ask for success or failure stories, they will never contact to verify. It's not meant the American way of a "success story", they don't care how much money you made the company. They want to know how you solve problems, they want to know how you interact with people to come to solutions.

Whether that story is about the CEO and your great idea making millions, or the janitor and your quest to finally have them fill up the toilet paper on time is really not that important, as long as you can tell a story on how you handled a problem well. And how you handled one badly and what you learned from it.

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There is of course no way to completely prevent your new / potential employer from checking your background information, including contacting your previous employer.

However,

a) as a rule-of-thumb, only larger organizations, or when your new position is very exposed (e.g. CEO position), would they go through the effort verifying details of your previous employment

b) you can do various things to reduce the need for verification:

  • be transparent and forthcoming about the fact that you were "restructured". You don't have to include any other information, particularly not the limited skills / experiences. Restructurings are very common these days, so nobody would dig any deeper. Just be prepared for a question like "have you tried to find another position internally?", particularly if your previous organization was a large one

  • include personal references and testimonies from your previous organization. This does not have to be from your boss, or an official company reference letter if the information is negative. But even an official company reference letter would rarely include any reasons why they chose to let you go as part of the restructuring. They would at most mention that they restructured.

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