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Laid off for not fitting in.
August 10, 2014 9:41 PM   Subscribe

I was laid off a few weeks ago, "wasn't a good fit" was the reason given. What do I say in my upcoming interviews?

I was near the end of the 3 month probationary period at a new company, and had just finished up work on a project, when I got laid off. The reason was given as "not a good fit with their culture", and they didn't care to elaborate. It wasn't my work, it was me. It wasn't a huge surprise in retrospect.

When I interviewed there, I got along great with all the people there - the dept and tech leads, and a junior. I did get the impression the culture there could be a bit intense, very friendly energetic people but they can be competitive, they drive hard deadlines and there could be long hours. Very culture focused too. I figured that was a challenge I could deal with. My dept lead seemed to be actually very friendly and we had a good rapport.

I was put in a nice window desk, away from the rest of my group. I enjoyed the work I was given, got a new technology study that I did a great job on, which went full-time for a few weeks and then had to go to intermittent work at times. Not being fully chargeable was a little stressful since they'd said in a weekly meeting "there's no excuse for not being fully chargeable, there's lots of work, so ask around and help out!!!" ... so I asked around, and it turned out there wasn't that much work that could be just handed off. What would my leads like me to be doing in the downtime? My ideas got shot down, and I got very little other direction.

That good rapport with my dept lead just seemed to diminish with time. She seemed pretty anxious, stressed, and distracted a lot, which I felt was reasonable and "not about me" since she was six months pregnant, the tech lead had just quit, and she had to pick someone to leave the department to during her mat leave. She was very hard to read. She'd give me good feedback once in a while without a smile. I tried to keep her up to date every few days with my availability for other work. Maybe i was just trying too hard and it rubbed her the wrong way.

I felt like I got on pretty well with the rest of the group though I saw little of them, and had made a few friends in the rest of the little company too. I had joined their toastmasters club, signed up for the summer bbq planning, and generally tried to help out where I could.

The study went very well, and the clients had told us how happy they were with it. But a few signs point to the fact they were planning on laying me off for a while, just waiting for my wrapping up my involvement on the project. My 3 month performance review was cancelled two weeks earlier and I was told it would be rescheduled. And when I talked to the company president (also on that project) how happy he must be that it went well, he didn't seem impressed by it at all. I asked them at the layoff if it had anything to do with the quality of my work, and they said my work was very good.

In the end, the president said he'd be happy to give me a good reference, and I should leave their company on my resume.

I really don't know what to say in my interview tomorrow though, and in future interviews. And I don't know if I should actually consider putting the president of that company on my resume as a reference.
posted by lizbunny to Work & Money (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
In the end, the president said he'd be happy to give me a good reference, and I should leave their company on my resume.

Congratulations on getting a new interview quickly after getting laid off.

Tell any prospective employers that you left because "it wasn't a good fit." This is, interestingly enough, true, and would be corroborated by your previous employer. You're highly overthinking this situation. Although it's never good to be laid off, you're being laid off in the best possible way - with a positive reference and a direct indication your work is valuable.

This might be a bit surprising, but in my experience, employers rarely hold ill will to employees that are laid off. Although the employee may not be worth employing in the long term, once the employee is laid off, it's not to the company's interest for the ex-employee to stay unemployed. Remember that the people you worked with are actual people, and in general, people are not spiteful for no good reason.

You may have a reason to suspect that your ex-employer is lying to you when they say they would give you a good reference. If that is the case, you might consider asking a friend to pursue a reference check for you, pretending to be a potential employer. There are also services to do this. All that said, nothing in your post indicates to me that your ex-employer has any reason not to give you a good reference and help you out in future employment prospects.
posted by saeculorum at 9:53 PM on August 10 [6 favorites]


I might just say it was a temporary/contract job. If your office seem genuinely willing to give you a good reference and say your work was good. But you don't want to risk your office while specifically say you were let go after a probationary period. You could also just say you were laid and it was simply "last hired, first fired." No one can really hold that against you if the company needed to shed its staff.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:11 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


I'd also go with 'contract' - you started there, finished a project and then the work was done. Seems pretty straightforward if it comes up in an interview.
posted by Youremyworld at 10:24 PM on August 10 [8 favorites]


"Not a good fit" is a perfectly reasonable reason to leave a job, so be honest. But in interviews, maybe don't be brutally honest - don't go in to nearly as much detail as you do here. Keep it neutral or positive, don't make value judgments about what happened, and you shouldn't raise a new employer's eyebrows too much.
posted by pdb at 10:27 PM on August 10


You might also think about the type of role you're going into. If the place you are going doesn't bill clients, they probably especially don't give a crap that as a new person, you were unable to get enough chargeable hours.
posted by wnissen at 10:43 PM on August 10


You were laid off, not fired. The reason you give is that you were laid off and that there was not enough billable work to keep everyone working. However, you had a great project while you were there.
posted by 26.2 at 12:08 AM on August 11 [9 favorites]


You were layed off. This happens. All the time. "The president said he'd be happy to give me a good reference, and I should leave their company on my resume." You should absolutely do both. Skip all the rest from your post excepting the positive aspects when you talk to your prospective employer.

"very friendly energetic people"
"I got along great with all the people there - the dept and tech leads, and a junior."
"very friendly energetic people"
" I enjoyed the work I was given, got a new technology study that I did a great job on"
"I got on pretty well with the rest of the group"
"The study went very well, and the clients had told us how happy they were with it." Be prepared to provide details here.

It's not so drastic really.
posted by vapidave at 2:14 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


"You may have a reason to suspect that your ex-employer is lying to you when they say they would give you a good reference. If that is the case, you might consider asking a friend to pursue a reference check for you, pretending to be a potential employer."

Um, there are huge liability issues for negative references and some for positive references as well. Technically all a prospective employer is allowed to ask a former employer is whether the employee worked for your organization and the dates of employ and if you left on good terms. Resume's are easily investigated by third parties though.
posted by vapidave at 2:39 AM on August 11


They didn't have enough billable work - not your fault they over hired. It happens all the time in consulting.
posted by COD at 4:47 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I think there was not enough work to go around, and you were laid off for that reason.

The job also wasn't a great fit and you are excited about new job because XYZ.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:25 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Technically all a prospective employer is allowed to ask a former employer is whether the employee worked for your organization and the dates of employ and if you left on good terms.

This statement is completely and utterly false
posted by saeculorum at 7:04 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


You were laid off because they have a crappy, unsustainable work culture that won't scale beyond their current size. So consider yourself lucky to be out of that mess and just say you were laid off due to insufficient work.
posted by rocketpup at 7:15 AM on August 11


If you do say 'not a good fit' be prepared to explain how because a smart interviewer will ask.
posted by srboisvert at 8:25 AM on August 11


"Not a good fit" is a term of art that will ring alarm bells for HR recruiters and others. Because they're specifically looking to see if you're a good fit for them. I know it's not fair, but the mentality is that if another company didn't think you're a good fit, then maybe they won't either, even if the cultures are 100% different. So no, I wouldn't use those words. I also don't think that's why you were really fired, those are almost blanket cover-your-ass words more than anything actually meaningful.

I would stress that it was a layoff, not a firing, and that work was hard to come by, even when you proactively sought it out. That everyone you worked under thought your work product was excellent, and would happily vouch for that fact. That it had nothing to do with whether you were a good employee. You should really believe this is true, by the way. From the facts of your story, I believe it's actually the case that you did a great job. You just need to emphasize and sell that.

Don't second guess the reference. He said it would be a good reference, and it will be. Just work on the narrative you want to present, because I guarantee it will come up in every interview you have going forward, not as a necessarily bad thing, just because it's a natural topic of discussion.
posted by naju at 9:59 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


You were laid off, not fired. That's a KEY difference when it comes to being interviewed for your next position.

Say that it was a contract position and you were laid off once the contract was complete.

The employer is willing to give you a good reference, which is a point in your favor.
posted by tckma at 12:57 PM on August 11


Unfortunately, I tend to think of "not a good fit" as code for "turned out to be crazy," because uh, we had an employee like that who had left her last job for that reason. I think going with "the job ended after three months" might be better here.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:11 PM on August 11


Tell any prospective employers that you left because "it wasn't a good fit."

Don't do this. I don't know why this is brought out as a good thing to say in interviews. I am a manager who conducts interviews, and it is a terrible thing to say.

What is totally reasonable to say is that it was a temporary position, and there were not enough billable hours to renew the contract, stay on, etc.

Technically all a prospective employer is allowed to ask a former employer is whether the employee worked for your organization and the dates of employ and if you left on good terms.


This is false. It may be worthwhile to have a friend pretend to be a prospective employer and call your old company for a reference to see what they should stay. If it has any negative aspects to it whatsoever, then leave the job off your resume.
posted by spaltavian at 7:46 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, in my interview yesterday I simply said it wasn't a good fit and the HR interviewer just waved it off. I didn't have to elaborate at all. From the rest of the interview with the tech lead, I am getting a better picture of other companies in my industry - a lot of strong personalities around, this kind of layoff isn't uncommon. Sigh.
posted by lizbunny at 12:38 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]


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