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The company I used to work for outsourced my job. Now I am starting to apply for positions and want to know if an interviewer can ask why I'm not with them anymore.

What is the best way to explain that I was outsourced without making myself look bad from the moment I answer this kind of question? Are they even allowed to ask this? It's also possible if they talk to my references this information of me being outsourced will appear, so I am trying to know how to deal with this honestly and effectively so I don't look totally awful/stupid.

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    Note that there is no shame in your job being outsourced. Sep 13, 2022 at 1:14
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    An interviewer can ask you anything they like, unless it's illegal, however you've not provided any information about your location, so we can't really comment on that. Sep 13, 2022 at 1:16
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    This is a very standard question, and one to prepare for, since it often requires some degree of diplomacy; you don't want to make either yourself or your past (or current!) employer look bad Sep 13, 2022 at 3:21
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    Does this answer your question? How do I answer why I left an employer when it wasn't my choice to leave?
    – gnat
    Sep 13, 2022 at 8:09
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    If you ask whether something is allowed, you need to specify the jurisdiction, since employment laws vary greatly among countries and states.
    – Barmar
    Sep 13, 2022 at 16:51

6 Answers 6

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Can an interviewer ask me why I'm no longer with my past employer?

Yes. It is a perfect question to get to know you and your work history.

What is the best way to explain that I was outsourced without making myself look bad from the moment I answer this kind of question??

You can tell the truth, which will not make you look bad at all because that was a business decision by the company.

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    I don't mind telling the truth, despite very apprehensive is how it makes me feel, sigh. Thank you for reminding about the business decision part, they actually said that. I wanted to verify it's a legitimate interview question so I can be apprehensive ahead of time. :)
    – Parkaboy
    Sep 13, 2022 at 1:09
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    @Parkaboy - don't be apprehensive, be prepared. Plenty of resources online to help you with preparing for an interview. Good luck!
    – ShellGhost
    Sep 13, 2022 at 12:56
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    @Parkaboy: "I wanted to verify it's a legitimate interview question..." Pro tip: Also prepare for illegitimate questions.
    – Heinzi
    Sep 13, 2022 at 13:59
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    @parkaboy : "They outsourced my position." Simple statement of fact and everyone knows what it means. If you want to elaborate "I really liked what I was doing at X but they outsourced my position. It was unfortunate for me, but I realize that business is business." Practice saying it so that it sounds like a simple statement of fact when you do it. It helps that it is a simple statement of fact :). But it might have been an emotional thing to go through, so work on saying it matter-of-factly until it's matter-of-fact to you.
    – msouth
    Sep 13, 2022 at 20:04
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    @Parkaboy: Potential phrasing -- "Our team was successful/high-performing/recognized within the company, but there was a business decision to outsource the department/work/all X activity".
    – Thomas W
    Sep 14, 2022 at 0:31
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What is the best way to explain that I was outsourced without making myself look bad from the moment I answer this kind of question?

Be honest. Explain that your job was outsourced. Explain that lots of jobs in your company were outsourced (if that's actually the case). It's not unusual. It happens. Hiring managers will understand this.

Are they even allowed to ask this?

Yes. At least in my part of the world they are allowed to ask this. Laws and customs in your locale may differ.

It's extremely common to ask why you are leaving your current job. When I am the hiring manager, I always ask.

Be ready with a good answer.

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    Exactly this but to make the it more about the situation rather than me personally, I'd push it as high as you can: My division/department/team was outsourced rather than "me and my job specifically". One sounds like you were caught up in a large strategy, the other could be interpreted as being related to you in particular. Sep 14, 2022 at 13:45
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Questions like these are very probably more about putting the candidate in a slightly uncomfortable position with a perfectly legit question and observing their reaction.

They are expecting an answer that matches the answer of your references and/or the knowledge they might have from your previous company. Explaining that it was due to outsourcing doesn't look bad. And that especially if it was a really big corporation, that cuts whole departments for whatever strategic reason.

Bad answers are all those around bad mouthing your previous company or boss, how they won't keep long in business without high-flyers like you.

Really bad answers:

  • I got caught stealing
  • I sexually harassed an intern
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    Really bad answers: (continued). "I beat my boss up" (I actually got this answer in an interview. I wound the meeting down as quickly and as tactfully as possible). Sep 13, 2022 at 23:22
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    @SimonCrase, Well, you dodged the bullet, thankfully. Imagine how you would feel if you hired that applicant, and later on, he told you that he was fired for beating up his old boss ? BTW, did the interviewee even bother to explain to you why he did that (for example, it happened in a bar when both him and his boss were drunk...) ? Sep 14, 2022 at 2:02
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    "I sexually harassed the CEO" - is that a worse answer or not?
    – gnasher729
    Sep 15, 2022 at 8:43
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It's not a great question, but it's not illegal either.

But there's no shame in being outsourced, and it usually says more about the company that did the outsourcing than the person who lost their job.

Try to approach the situation with a "one door closes, another door opens" mindset - now that you're being forced to look, maybe you'll find something much better than what you had. Try to pivot interview discussions away from "what happened at the last place" to "why you're excited about working at this place"

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Your actual question: Yes, they are allowed to ask. And yes, you are expected to give a truthful answer (that puts you in the best light).

"My job and xxx other jobs were outsourced" - that's the best possible answer. It's not your fault, not your responsibility, nothing you could have done about it. Nobody can blame you or think any less of you because your job was outsourced.

I once answered "My manager was told: There are four people under you, and five are leaving". Truthful (yes, that's what he was told), not my fault, plus a good laugh. In other teams, the manager had to select one or two people to leave - that's a less good situation.

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Grin, and then say something like "well, a politician would say that he wanted to spend more time with his family".

If pressed, wipe the smile off your face and be 100% honest while doing your best to /not/ criticise your former employer, and being very careful not to give away any sensitive information (e.g. cashflow figures which have not yet been published). It's reasonable to assume that your former employer will do the same if approached.

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    Its maybe just me but that answer would make me think you had something to hide
    – simonc
    Sep 13, 2022 at 15:43
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    I don't understand why you wouldn't be honest? Sep 13, 2022 at 16:19
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    What is the interviewer supposed to do with that?
    – njzk2
    Sep 13, 2022 at 16:46
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    @njzk2 - not hire the candidate ......
    – deep64blue
    Sep 13, 2022 at 17:00
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    "Is that so? OK. I'll write down 'Fired due to misconduct'." Sep 14, 2022 at 1:14

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