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I got wind that my boss was going to need to reduce his headcount by 1 (technically three, but there were two open positions). I volunteered as all four of my co-workers just had kids in the past year so were recovering from reduced family incomes with maternity leave and whatnot. I was also there only three months.

I have already lined up a bunch of interviews, but I haven't been officially fired so I am not sure that I can tell the interviewers why I am leaving (I heard our manager's manager say it after he thought we all left the standup video call and confronted my manager later) as I am technically not supposed to know. I am leaving after 3 months, so I suspect it will come up.

Here are the steps I have taken.

  • I overheard the layoff conversation
  • I confirmed that the layoff thing was happening with my boss
  • I basically told my boss to choose me, if I didn't find another job by the time the order came down.
  • He offered me time to interview/prep/do whatever.

Everything is good at the company. Manager's boss wouldn't be happy that I learned, but whatever. I just need to figure out how to explain all this during the interviews (which I already have) as I seem like I am casually hopping to a new position a few months later.

How should I frame this?

  • 28
    How are you technically not supposed to know, and yet you volunteered to quit/be fired? Those statements are not compatibile. – Tymoteusz Paul Jul 9 at 7:16
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    @TymoteuszPaul I think that is what the part about the video call explains. – Matthew Gaiser Jul 9 at 7:28
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    @whyIamleaving and did you then tell him that you will try to leave? It's a negotiation to be had for sure, as you leaving possibly solves a very problematic situation for him, so you can negotiate something out of it for you, like a reference letter for example, and flexibility in time to interview. – Tymoteusz Paul Jul 9 at 7:55
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    @TymoteuszPaul oh yes. He is a good boss so he offered that to me. I did not have to ask. – whyIamleaving Jul 9 at 7:58
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    I think it’s great you are acting so selflessly. Kudos! I was going to ask where you are as possibly in some jurisdictions you would be entitled to some redundancy pay if you are let go, but wouldn’t be if you leave under your own steam. Your short period of service makes it unlikely you’d qualify though, but something to think about nevertheless. – Darren Jul 10 at 6:06

11 Answers 11

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With the clarification in the comments that you've already confirmed the layoffs with your boss and offered to quit to save them the problem simply because it would impact you least of your coworkers, honestly, I can't think of a better "why I left" way to spin this whole thing because what you did it exactly right.

You didn't jump the gun on the rumor - you went to confirm it, and then, taking everything into account, you've offered to resign in exchange for having a letter of recommendation and interview flexibility - while still working for the company and delivering the good work during the transition period.

You really do not need to say anything else but the truth, it's really the story interviewers will want to hear as it shows integrity, sensibility and amazing amount of empathy - more so as you didn't know who will be fired and whether that will be you (unless you are in Germany or a country with similarly rigid firing order).

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    The truth is the most powerful thing here. It strikes to the heart of teamwork, esprit de corps, thinking in the best interests of the company, and still being committed to doing great work. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement to a bad situation. This is the kind of integrity and character that would seal the deal for me in an interview. I want that person. – Joel Etherton Jul 20 at 22:38
  • Note that the "firing order" in Germany is not set in stone. I've seen enough counter examples. – clem steredenn Jul 22 at 13:16
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Just tell the interviewers the truth, the company is having financial difficulties. There are rumors of impending layoffs.

You don't need to say more than that. There is a pandemic going on. Everyone understands.

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    @WhyIamleaving You don't need to say anything about "volunteering", Stephan's line is more than enough. That said, If also emphasize why you want to work at the new company, not just why you're leaving the old one. – lambshaanxy Jul 9 at 15:08
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    @MadPhysicist The important thing is that it's internal, not public knowledge. You shouldn't divulge company private information to outsiders. – Barmar Jul 9 at 17:14
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    @Barmar - yes, it absolutely is. Rumors about layoffs are not confidential information, and employees make decisions based on them all the time. – Davor Jul 9 at 19:38
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    @TasosPapastylianou Exactly. There are very very very few ways to spin "3 months in and already leaving" story in a favorable way for the candidate. Very much anything will be seen as at the very least a strong yellow flag by any interviewer, and often enough just tossed aside as an excuse. Here the truth paints it quite favorably, op is still doing his duties for the employer while jobhunting and is not even working notice period, just working while job hunting. Probably as good as it gets given the circumstances. – Tymoteusz Paul Jul 10 at 8:49
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    @AlexGeorg but that's not Ops story, is it? They are not looking around because they are suspecting layoffs, they know that they are going to happen as a fact. And there is simply no reason to turn the truth into half-truths. – Tymoteusz Paul Jul 10 at 11:09
16

First up - make sure you understand what an interviewer's interest will be.

If I was interviewing someone for a role, my primary concerns would be the following:

  1. Do they have the right skills?
  2. What's their attitude to work like?
  3. How long will they stay? / Am I wasting my time here?

Your willingness to sacrifice yourself "for the team" shows you're considerate to others (perhaps), a team player (perhaps), but on the flip-side, none of this is yet certain, so if we make you an offer, will you turn around and reject it in a month when the redundancy DOESN'T happen?

Let's be clear - it's of little or no value to my business that you are prepared to be made redundant because your colleagues need the job more. If I believe you, it makes me like you, but liking someone, and deciding they're the right person for the job are not necessarily the same thing.

Edit: A lot of people will tell you that quickly moving jobs is a bad thing - it's not - only if you do it repeatedly! Joining a business and deciding quickly it's not for you and moving on is common and can show decisiveness and ambition.

So I would try to spin this so THEY HEAR what THEY want to hear - like this.

  1. Because of x (covid?) the role wasn't what I expected - the business is struggling... redundancies forthcoming....

  2. My team is going to be diminished, the opportunities I'd hoped for aren't going to be there, so I decided that rather than waste time settling into a role that may not even be there in 6 months, I'd leave now and find somewhere more suitable.

  3. I've discussed it with my manager and he's happy.

  4. So here I am - I think YOUR business is going to suit me much better BECAUSE.....

Edited after the OP was changed to indicate they'd only been there for 3 months.

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6

If you get an interview, tell them that your company has been doing layoffs and you fear you are next, you have the least amount of seniority and you have spoken with your manager and layoffs are coming. You are trying to look for work before that happens and have been actively looking for the past week or so since you found out.

In these trying times, employers understand and I doubt will question this.

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2

...but I haven't been officially fired so I am not sure that I can tell the interviewers why I am leaving...

Even if it's official, you don't need to tell the exact reason at the interview. If you're not comfortable with mentioning the financial condition of the current employer, just mention "I'm looking for opportunities where I can use my knowledge, skills and leanings in a way that is beneficial for both of us" and be done with it.

You almost never need to be explicit, unless there's a legal issue withholding the actual reason for you to quit (or be fired).

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2

Just be careful what you are doing. In European countries, being laid off will usually result in some more or less generous compensation being paid. If you resign, you lose that. I was in one place where a huge number of people were laid off (including me), and someone had put in his notice 5 days before layoffs were announced. It cost him about £20,000 pound.

The other thing is that you volunteering may not change how many other people will be laid off. If the company lays off 50 people, that doesn't mean they want to lay off 50 - they probably want to lay off more, but large layoffs tell everyone that the company isn't doing well, which they don't want to tell the world. So if you volunteer, they'd have 50 layoffs and one volunteer leaving instead of 50 layoffs.

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1

"My company is currently struggling, and there is talk of layoffs, so I'm being proactive to see what's out there.

I also really like my colleagues, and they all have had kids in the past year so I'd much rather be the one to leave than to see one of them put in a difficult situation."

Basically exactly what you've said. There's nothing wrong or weird about what you're doing. You're proactively seeking the next job instead of waiting for the boot. You're also seeing if you can help out your colleagues. Kudos to you.

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    Not sure that's a good strategy. It might give them the impression he'll jump ship at the first sign of trouble. Who wants to hire that? – Gertsen Jul 10 at 7:44
  • Interesting perspective @Gertsen but I see it as the company and the employee are aligned—the company needs to make the hard call of letting someone go, and the employee is helping them. – Mirror318 Jul 11 at 7:29
  • That's only relevant for the company he's leaving. My comment is about the company he's interviewing with. – Gertsen Jul 12 at 10:55
1

I think that what you did was exemplary, and that you should explain it just as you did to us. The company is experiencing financial difficulties, you volunteered to be the one to leave, and your manager thanked you. To me, this says a lot of very good things about your character.

Although it is unfortunate that a company can be "over-stocked on employees," it is nonetheless a business reality that we all understand.

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1

I think your heart is in the right place, but telling this story as is might make you come off as a bit of martyr instead of a steady employee, and diving into the details regarding team members expanding their families would come off as oversharing. Your interviewer might also wonder why your manager didn't fight to keep you onboard.

What your interviewer is looking for is some obvious red flag, which is why it's so important to get this question concise and right.

I would put it this way: You confirmed with your manager that layoffs were coming. As the most recent hire, you are most likely to be selected. Good opportunity, bad timing, but you value the connections made and proud of the work you did.

Your interviewer will probably stop you there. In fact, if they stop you at 'layoffs coming', say no more about the situation. For most people, that really is enough information.

They will probably ask you about why you left the job before that. I'm sure you already have a good answer for that question.

You do show amazing empathy and courage, which I applaud, but don't let other people take advantage of you.

"You are worth more than what you can give to other people." - a TV show on Netflix.

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First of all, let me say that you're an awesome human being for being that considerate of your coworkers. Few people would do that sort of thing.

There are already a lot of good answers to this question, but they're missing an oft-overlooked aspect that you should be aware of.

Laying off a bunch of employees almost always has an effect on that company's stock price (it usually goes up, but not always). If these layoffs have not been announced publicly, then your knowledge of them can be considered privileged/confidential information. If you tell an interviewer that you volunteered for an upcoming layoff which is not yet public and that interviewer buys your company's stock in anticipation of the post-announcement price increase, then that can be considered insider trading. By providing them with privileged, non-public information, you could also be held liable in some cases. If your company found out that you revealed that information to a third party, then you could face serious repercussions (as could your manager, who did not have permission to confirm the rumors to you).

I highly recommend that you remain a bit vague about your reasons until the layoffs have been announced publicly. It would be okay to say something like there are rumors of layoffs or that you feel like layoffs will be coming soon. Given your short tenure, you could also say that the company's financial situation is very different that what you believed it was when you initially interviewed. Just don't give any details that haven't been publicly announced, whether that's a confirmation of upcoming layoffs or details about the financial situation.

Once your company publicly announces the layoffs, it should be perfectly safe to talk about it and @Tymoteusz Paul's answer is a good solution.

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Nobody will believe your story if you tell the truth.

Sorry for being blunt, but your story sounds a bit too good to be true (why would you sacrifice yourself for coworkers you barely had time to get to know?).

You can say company is reducing headcount due to COVID-19 and you are the newest employee.

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  • 14
    I believe it. Everybody else on this page appears to believe it. Maybe it's just you? – Asteroids With Wings Jul 9 at 18:39
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    He already has interviews lined up. He isn’t condemning himself to poverty. My guess is that he just can more easily handle a couple weeks without a paycheque. – Matthew Gaiser Jul 9 at 18:50
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    @AsteroidsWithWings There are millions of people who believe things which make no sense at all. What you believe about the OP is irrelevant, unless you want to offer him/her a job. Personally I believe the OP has aspirations to become a saint, and that would be a very good reason not to employ him/her. – alephzero Jul 9 at 19:13
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    @alephzero Thank you for your rather dismissive comment. I was directly critiquing the claims in this answer, which are demonstrably false. – Asteroids With Wings Jul 9 at 19:22
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    @NoSenseEtAl it was not intended as an insult. Nor was it addressed to you personally (unless you identify with your example). Identifying a thinking pattern as narcissistic is no more an insult than identifying an empathic one; it is what it is, and both can be useful/harmful traits depending on context. "Why would you sacrifice yourself for coworkers you barely had time to get to know" is entirely narcissistic thinking. Cynicism is not the point here. If OP has not considered this thinking pattern, then it is useful for them to know it exists and prepare for it at an interview. That's all. – Tasos Papastylianou Jul 10 at 10:06

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