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All About Job Termination Types: Laid Off, Fired and More

I have news for you. You’ve been terminated.

So have I, and some instances have been easier than others.

Anyone who has left a job has had their employment at that organization terminated. That’s it, the end, kaput. It’s not a good or bad thing, just a matter of fact.

It can be confusing, however, to sort out the types of terminations, what they mean and how to talk about them in job interviews and beyond.

Terminations typically fall into one of three categories: resignation, layoff or firing. Resignations are considered a voluntary termination while layoffs and firings are involuntary. The differences may impact your employment history when references are done for your next job, eligibility for unemployment and messaging when discussing your departure.


The most common form of termination is when someone resigns from, or quits, a job.

The terms resign and quit are interchangeable with resign sounding a bit more formal. This termination type means that you have volunteered to leave a role regardless of the reason. Typically a letter of resignation is submitted and a notice period of two weeks or more is given.

Those who have resigned are not typically eligible for unemployment benefits nor do they receive a severance package.


A layoff typically happens when there is not enough work to justify a position. If someone mentions that they have been made redundant, downsized, given a pink slip, or gone through a restructure, these terms are synonymous with a layoff.

This type of termination may happen to an individual or to a group. A layoff takes place if a company closes, changes the way work is done or distributed, or experiences a loss of funds.

Sometimes, an employee is offered options that include a layoff. For example, if a company is moving to a different state, the employee may be offered the opportunity to relocate or be laid off. Also, if a position is being eliminated, the employee may be offered another role in the company, or a layoff. Even if an employee chooses the layoff, it is still involuntary since they did not choose to leave their role in its agreed-upon state.

Layoffs are due to a company change and are not a reflection on an employee’s performance. Layoffs may or may not have a notice period. Those who are laid off typically receive a severance package and are eligible for unemployment benefits.


If someone is fired, they have not met the requirements of their job. This could be due to poor work product, attitude or committing a fireable offense. Unlike a layoff, being fired is a direct reflection of the employee’s performance.

The eligibility for a notification period depends largely on the severity of the reason for which someone is fired. Most times, someone who is fired receives a severance package and is not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Talking About Your Termination

When you talk about leaving a job, for any reason, the main objective is to keep the conversation positive and geared toward your next opportunity. The same formula can be applied to all three termination types with a few minor modifications.

When talking about why you’ve left a job, start with the positive and share what you enjoyed about or learned in the role. Next, talk about the change that occurred which prompted your departure. Finally, share what you’re looking for in your next role. Avoid dwelling on the negative in each case.

With a layoff, you may want to stress the company change to make the point clear that the termination wasn’t a reflection on your performance.

If you were fired, and choose to share this information in an interview, touch on the reason and the lessons you learned as a result of the termination. Mistakes happen, but you’ll reveal a great deal in how you handled the situation. Ending your story by talking about your next move will help to move the conversation away from the incident.

You may notice a large number of qualifiers like typically and oftentimes in this article. Here’s the thing — when someone leaves a company, it might be complicated. Someone may be strongly encouraged to resign, asked to be laid off, or received a layoff instead of being fired as a gesture of goodwill to help with future employment.

What’s important is that you and your former company represent a united and consistent message about why you’ve left so you don’t have any issues when your next employer enquires.

No matter your reason for leaving a company, you are in control of your next steps. Take some time to reflect on the lessons you’ve learned with this change and then get out there and rock your next position. Your next employer will be lucky to have you.


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