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Can You Ask About Layoffs in an Interview? Yes — Here’s How

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TikTok. IBM. Meta. Google. What do these companies have in common? Unfortunately, they’ve all had layoffs in 2024. Nearly four in ten companies (38%) say that they plan to have layoffs this year. This news is stressful for everyone in the workforce — and for job seekers, it provides an interesting challenge. Can you talk about past layoffs in an interview? What about future ones? How can you find out if the company you’re interviewing for is one of the four in ten planning to reduce their workforce?

While it’s unlikely an interviewer will be completely candid about a company’s economic state or plans to prevent layoffs, you can ask some strategic questions to get a better picture. Here are our top tips for how to approach the topic of layoffs in an interview.

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Can You Ask About Layoffs in an Interview?

Yes, you can ask about layoffs in the interview process — in fact, you probably should! That doesn’t mean you should ask blunt questions like, “so, are you planning on layoffs in 2024?” Instead, there are a few smart and respectful ways to broach the topic in interviews.

What to Do Before the Interview

Before any interview, you should do your research on the company. If you’re planning to talk about layoffs, you also need to come armed with information about the company’s history with layoffs, if any.

This research helps you prepare for any interview conversation with knowledge about the company’s previous history with layoffs. You don’t want to ask if the company has ever done or considered layoffs if that information is publicly available and searchable.

Check Public Records

Data about company layoffs are sometimes publicly available — you just need to know where to look. 

First, check databases that track layoffs for the company name, like, which tracks all layoffs in tech. 

If the company is larger, you may also be able to find news stories about it. A simple Google search of the company with the term “layoffs” and filtering for news results can clue you in. 

These are good signs of whether the company has already had layoffs. There are also public records of companies that will be doing layoffs in the next two months. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) Act requires some employers to give advance notice of when they’re laying off a certain number of employers. 

There are a variety of regulations about which employers and their planned layoffs are subject to the WARN Act, including:

  • The company must have 100 or more full-time employees (not including part-time employees under 20 hours/week and those employed less than six months).
  • The company must be a private, for-profit business; a private, nonprofit; or publically traded company.
  • Layoffs must be of 50 or more workers at a single site, where 50 is at least one-third of the total full-time workers at the site, or layoffs of 500 or more workers at a single site.

So, every company that’s planning to do layoffs might not be on your state’s WARN list, but it’s definitely worth checking the notices in your state before the interview. 

Get Savvy on Social Media

You can also get smart with your searches on LinkedIn. Search for the company’s name and filter for posts to see ones that mention the company. Often, laid-off employees will post asking for job recommendations, or employees that remain at the company might write a post to help their affected former coworkers.

How to Ask About Layoffs in an Interview 

You’ve done your research and made it to the interview. Now what? How do you ask about layoffs in an interview? 

Address Past Layoffs

If the company has publicly announced layoffs — either in the news or by former employees on LinkedIn — you can opt to ask about them, but do so strategically and politely. For example, you can ask questions after layoffs like:

  • I saw this company had some layoffs in 2022. Are you able to address why those layoffs happened?
  • Does the company have any strategies in place to prevent future layoffs?
  • What are some of the main changes in the business since the [year] layoffs?

“The company should have a message they can share with potential candidates or current candidates,” Elisa Pineda, talent acquisition and workforce development specialist, says. “As a candidate, I suggest asking but choosing your words and tone wisely. Layoffs affect even the people that stay, and they can be a little touchy, but [recruiters] should freely explain or let the candidate know they do not have an answer.”

Focus on the Economy

Instead of addressing layoffs directly, you can focus on general economic conditions that may affect the company. Focus on company growth and strategy by asking questions like: 

  • How has the company been affected by macroeconomic conditions, if at all? What are some ways the company has reacted to these trends?
  • How much do you expect to grow in the next 12 months? The next 24?
  • What strategies do you have in place to deal with worsening economic conditions?

While Pineda says candidates can ask about economic conditions in an interview, they shouldn’t expect the recruiter to have an answer. Instead, the answer might have to come from someone else on the team, like the hiring manager.

>>MORE: Hiring Manager vs Recruiter: What’s the Difference?

“Not all recruitment teams are involved in budget or similar departments, so that team may not have a good answer, but they should guide you as to who would have that answer,” she says. “Let the recruiter know you will be asking that question in the next round of interviews so the next person you ask will have an answer for you. You can also offer to send an email with your questions after the interview so they can forward it to them.”

It’s not that the recruiter doesn’t want to answer your question, but rather that they might not be the best company representative to do so. A good recruiter, Pineda says, will reach out to their colleagues to get the information you’re looking for.

“We would not want to lose someone over a question we do not have an answer for,” she says.

Ask About Your Role Specifically

If you’re trying to figure out how to ask about job security in an interview, one of the best interview questions to ask after layoffs is what the company’s plans are for your role. This question (and similar questions specific to the role) allows you to see how this position fits into the company structure and whether the team has already thought about the role’s long-term growth and development. If they haven’t already been answered in the interview (or the job description!), ask questions like:

  • Why are you looking to fill this role right now? Why did you prioritize this position over others?
  • How does this role interact with other roles on the team? How does this role contribute to the company’s strategy?
  • How do you see this role evolving in the next year? The next two years? The next five?
  • What growth and development opportunities are available in this role?

In terms of layoffs, these insights can help you understand how your role fits into the team and contributes to the company’s mission. By asking questions about development, you’ll also learn how the company does (or doesn’t) promote internal growth and advancement opportunities.

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What to Do After Talking About Layoffs in an Interview

Express Your Enthusiasm …

Asking tough questions is important, but you don’t want the interviewer to get the wrong idea. If they’ve answered your questions to your satisfaction and you’re interested in continuing the interview process, make that extremely clear in your follow-up thank you email. For example, you can mention that you’re thankful for their time and for answering your questions.

>>MORE: How to Write a Job Interview Thank You Email (With Template)

… Or, Let Them Know You’re Not Interested

“It should not be looked down upon to ask [questions about layoffs],” Pineda says. “If you get a bad vibe asking as a candidate, that may be a red flag for you.”

Consider whether not getting the response or answers you wanted from the company would be enough to make you decline their job offer. If so, withdraw from the interview process by letting your recruiter know. Be polite and clear in your response — you don’t need to tell them it’s because you’re worried about the company’s economic future.

Prepare for more tough interview topics: 

Image credit: Anna Shvets / Pexels

Zoe Kaplan is a Senior Writer at Forage. Prior to joining Forage, she wrote and edited career and workplace content for Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women.

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