Help - An2 Layoff - Game Plan?

Hi Monkeys,

I am impacted by a c.20% layoff in a regional IB boutique before Xmas, myself (An2) and a new VP were impacted. No hint up front, no PIP. Positive mid-term review. MD offers reference and has introduced me to another MM.

After taking some holiday time off and fighting off the initial devastation, I've decided that I really want to stay and succeed in banking / investing. 

I actually started recruiting before the layoff news hit (due to culture/brand name). I have 2 upcoming round 2 buyside interviews 

I would like to pick your brain on:

  1. How should I explain the layoff to the teams I'm already interviewing with? Should I let them know asap or only when I get the offer? I don't want to be dishonest, but I also don't want to be viewed as a "stained" candidate. Technically, I'm still working for the boutique for the next month or so

  2. If your team is hiring, what are your biggest concerns about taking in a junior who was laid off? What kind of due diligence areas would you focus on? Is rocking the interview enough or should reference be offered proactively? 

  3. When looking for new opps, are buyside firms more likely to be interested in me than sellside firms (as I didn't "fail" in buy-side)? 

Any insights are welcomed. Thank you and I wish everyone a fantastic 2023 ahead.

 

Following, I am in the same boat as you and would love to see what others have to say. I am sorry you got laid off and the situation sucks so much. As someone in your shoes, my instinct is people will be understanding of your situation, but I would not mention it in interviews at all. I would just highlight that you are looking for a different role, highlight the positives of your bank, and why the new role is a fit for you. If they press on for background checks, mention that it was an RIF.

 

I think the first thing to remember going forward is not to be afraid of saying you were let go when in casual conversation. Lay offs happen and it's a part of working in this space -sometimes they completely blindside you and that's ok. Best to learn from it and carry that forward into your next chapter.

Like others have said, people will be understanding of your situation. To make the best play for next stages outline what you learned from your previous shop and that you're keen to hit the ground running and continue to add value as well as learn -remember to have humility!

 

Yes I’ve realised that also after working a few years, layoffs happen at all levels and it’s not really frowned upon as much as I use to think. Getting fired for malpractice is when it’ll be a serious red flag but redundancy/layoffs really not a huge deal.

 

Being able to provide an MD as a reference will be really massive and imo means you can and should be completely honest.

Be forthcoming with saying that it was unexpected, as you had positive reviews and no other indications, and that these layoffs impacted the entire firm likely due to the broader economic condition. Then at the end of those 3 sentences casually toss in there: “if you’ve got any concerns, I’ve got solid references who would be happy to speak to you and confirm all this.”

Live. Laugh. Leverage.
 

Second this, its an important point.  In times like these, many (even most) interview candidates are going to be layoffs.  Banks will be used to it, and won't hold it against the candidate much.  Hell, they'll probably be a bit suspicious of the non-layoff candidates . . like "what's his deal, he must be getting negative signals if he's looking for a job in this environment where everyone else is clinging to their job."  

So the delta between a layoff candidate and a non-layoff, isn't going to be big.  What will be a big factor is whether you're that rare candidate who has a banker from your last shop really going to bat for you.  Like wiling to tell a new employer that you were great, and they hated losing you.  Even if it's just an associate, it means a lot.  

The one time I'd possibly conceal the layoff is if you are in the really late stages and think you'll get an offer before the severance runs out.  That's a special situation because when the background check calls your old bank, they're going to say you're still employed there, until your official last day.  So you'll get a small leg up by claiming you're still employed.  But it's not a big advantage and I would only do it if I was sure to be getting an answer before that official end date.

 

Thanks for this. Wouldn't the background check usually happen at least 1-2 weeks after you get the offer? So if my severance ends in between the date I get the new offer and the date of background check, do I tell the new employer about my layoff once my severance ends and before the background check place, or risk it and just not mention it at all? Or if I have a sense the background check will be conducted after my severance ends, would it be best to be transparent up front?

For example, everyone knows the GS layoffs are today, so if I tell an employer 3 weeks from now that I got laid off, would they be upset that I waited 3 weeks to tell them when I was already in an interview process with them?

 

1) Tough call. Although people are understanding, some may view you as less desirable. I personally wouldn't care as long as you weren't laid off for bad performance. If you don't disclose and HR asks when were you let go, they will check the dates vs your interview dates, and you may end up in trouble. Can you ask your former HR team if there is any record of you being let go that other firms can view? I think if you passed your series exams there might be a record in the FINRA database. These are two scenarios I propose:

1) Play dumb (do not lie if asked or imply that you work there ex: at Evercorn I did x role vs I am currently doing x role). After the interviews, reach out to HR and state what happened, that you have a reference corroborating your good performance, and that this was a layoff thing

2) Don't disclose at all. HR may be able to see or ask when you got let go, and after comparing that date to your interview dates, the hiring manager may think you tried to be sneaky and rescind your offer.

IMO, option 1 is the safest bet. However, for new interview processes that haven't started, I would probably update my resume and be upfront with this. I don't think it's worth the stress/risk of losing an offer because some hiring manager got angry at you for hiding this information. Again, my way of disclosing this is to update the work date on your resume, and talk in past tense terms. If they ask are you still there, then you state what happened. You don't have to start the interview with my name is Sam, I was recently laid off....

 

Just had a random idea you might like: Ask  your previous HR firm if it is possible to have you on record that you're employed at your firm for 1-2 more months, tell them it's related to the interview processes and that it'll  make bouncing back much easier. If they say yes, then you don't have to disclose anything until that time ends. I've heard some firms/banks will allow laid off employees to state they work there for the reason I just mentioned.

 

isn't the last day of severance legally the last day of employment? so if a firm gives you 3 months severance, you can technically say you're still with the firm if you're interviewing during that 3 month severance period right?

 

What if you’re working with a recruiter and they ask you? Since many are getting laid off, I don’t think you’ll stick out like a sore thumb (if this was 2021, a layoff would likely be viewed more negatively)

I think it also depends on where you’re recruiting from. If you’re coming from a firm that is known to be actively laying off (I.e., Goldman Sachs) I think the question is more likely to come up. I don’t think it’s worth lying about something that can be easily verified. 

 
Most Helpful

I've worked with a bunch of people this year who were laid off and every single one of them was scared to tell their interviewers that they were unemployed. People go into panic mode when they are laid off and get extremely embarrassed, even if they layoffs had nothing to do with them. Some thoughts here:

1 - You're creating a very significant risk for yourself if you aren't honest about being laid off during your interviews. People do reference checks and unless your references are willing to lie for you, the truth will come out. Heck, the truth could come out multiple months after you've started the job and you could find yourself in your future MD's office trying to explain why you lied about why you left the prior firm. Even if you do get to keep your next job, you'll have to work there with a permanent stain on your reputation and trustworthiness.

2 - As mentioned above, if you weren't laid off for bad performance, it just isn't a big deal given today's market. Layoff announcements are occurring every single day. Tech just got slaughtered (META, Twitter, etc.). Goldman is taking an axe to it's team. You have the perfect backdrop to blame market conditions and it will be hard for people to question you.

3 - You want to control the narrative. The key is crafting a good, defensible story that your references are willing to corroborate. Were you finishing up at the bank this summer after your two years anyways and the firm felt they weren't going to have meaningful work for a couple quarters, so they figured why keep you on versus the first years who will be around for at least another year and a half? Were you a very recent hire (like the new VP) and therefore an easy person to cut loose? Did you work in a vertical that had less dealflow than the other verticals? Did you have a killer 1st year performance review that you can provide to give written evidence that you didn't underperform? You don't want your future employer to find out about your termination and start to wonder if it was because you're a bad analyst. You want to address it head on and get your story in implanted in their brains.

4 - The mental anxiety of going through an interview process, background checks, and then starting work knowing that you lied (or withheld information) is crippling for a lot of people. Don't put yourself in this scenario.

Note: I have a separate set of advice if you are actually terminated for performance reasons, but that requires a lot more delicate story crafting. Regardless, you don't want to hide the fact that you are no longer working!

So, deliver the message in a non-apologetic way and don't shy away from it. You'd be surprised at how most firms ultimately don't care.

And as for your questions about buyside -- no, you'll be more interesting to the sellside because you already have 1.5 years of direct experience and can hit the ground running. And for the record, you didn't "fail" in sellside.

CompBanker’s Career Guidance Services: https://www.rossettiadvisors.com/
 

Such a detailed review I really appreciate it.

What if the firm is laying you off and is disguising the layoff as a performance issue? My group bled a senior analyst and an associate the six months I was here, leaving me as the sole junior employee. I am worried I’ll be next on the chopping block given there’s literally no deals now.

While my performance was slightly below average, it wasn’t abhorrent. I understand this is a bit a bit of a specialized situation but do you happen to have any advice here?

 

This situation is a bit more difficult and I think you probably need to be more delicate here. I think you could craft an argument that the group was struggling, evidenced by the continued departures of the team. You could say that given the attrition and the complete lack of deal flow, you identified the risk awhile back that they would cull the entire junior team and have been evaluating options for a few months prior to your official departure (I assume this is a theoretical scenario where you're terminated next). You would want to compile a list of very specific examples where your performance was strong and that senior members specifically indicated they were pleased with your work. You could even reference the positive aspects of your review and leave out the negatives. If this isn't your first job, it can be incredibly helpful to point towards success in a prior role (evidenced by a promotion or performance review).

You would also want to have a discussion prior to departure regarding the firm's willingness to provide a positive reference for you. It isn't uncommon for firm's to do this, particularly if they like you or feel guilty for putting you in a difficult situation. That said, it cannot be expected 100%, particularly if they truly felt you were a poor performer. The good news is you only need to find one person willing to back you ... it doesn't need to be everyone. To that end, if you are still in touch with the associate who recently left, they can a great reference as they don't need to align their messaging with the firm's position.

CompBanker’s Career Guidance Services: https://www.rossettiadvisors.com/
 

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