Can You Say You Were Laid Off Instead Of Fired

Laid off. Fired. Sacked. Let go. No matter which words you use to describe losing your job, it can be a complicated and stressful situation—not to mention downright upsetting.

Though the terms surrounding unemployment are often used interchangeably, they’re not synonyms. You might not think the language matters all that much as the end result is the same: You’re still out of work. But the fact is, the difference between being laid off and getting fired can have a significant impact on your finances as well as your future job search.

If you’re having trouble processing this turbulent and often traumatic life event, here’s one thing you’ll need to understand to help you get through it: Were you actually laid off or fired?

Being laid off means you have lost your job due to changes that the company has decided to make on its end. The difference between being laid off and being fired is that if you are fired, the company considers that your actions have caused the termination. If you are laid off, you didn’t necessarily do anything wrong.

How to talk about being fired

If you were fired, this is your chance to show a potential employer that you’re resourceful, that you don’t give up, that you can turn any bad situation into an opportunity.

Remember, “you dont need to mention being fired unless they ask,” Tam says. “But make sure you dont lie. Great companies often perform background checks by calling past employers so its always better to be honest and thoughtful.”

If they do ask why you left or ask about a resume gap, be honest: “address the situation quickly but provide context as to why it happened objectively and what you did proactively to improve yourself.”

Or maybe you were fired for misconduct.

Or maybe it wasn’t your last job, but one early in your career.

“Never blame your company, previous manager, or work,” Tam says. “If an interviewer hears how you bad-mouth your past company, they will expect that you will do the same in this company and may be flagged as a ‘toxic person.’ Great companies know that toxic people ruin workplace culture.”

Laid off vs. fired: how to explain it in an interview

In an interview, you’ll almost certainly be asked, why are you looking for a new job?

Example #1 of what to say when you get laid off:

Notice in the sample interview answers above, you’re being clear that you were laid off through no fault of your own!

You don’t want an employer thinking you were fired or let go for performance-related issues if you weren’t. This is why it’s best to mention that others were laid off, too (as long as it’s true).

You can see both of the examples above include this, which eliminates any doubt the hiring manager might have about whether you were fired vs. laid off.

Laid-off, fired or terminated? Say this…


Should I say I was laid off instead of fired?

Generally, layoffs occur when a company needs to cut costs, though there can be other reasons for cutting staff. The key part of “laid off” is that you lost your job due to the company’s performance, not your individual performance. However, when you’re fired, it’s usually due to your performance.

Can I say I was laid off?

Your job application, on the other hand, is going to ask you for a brief description of why you left your job. If you prefer, you can simply write “job ended,” “laid off,” or “terminated” on your job application. This is recommended since your goal with your application and resume is to get an interview.

Can you lie and say you were laid off?

Step one: Don’t lie

“If you lie and say you left voluntarily (or frame it as a layoff or otherwise misrepresent what happened), the employer will likely find out the truth when they contact your references or do a background check,” she writes.

What can I say instead of getting fired?

Alternative phrases to say “fired”
  • We are letting you go.
  • We think you would be better off working for another company.
  • Your services are no longer needed here.
  • We are terminating you.
  • Your employment here has ended.
  • We are releasing you from your position.
  • We are requesting your resignation.

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