How to Ex­plain Your Lay­off Dur­ing an In­ter­view

The Washington Post Sunday - - JOBS -


Be­ing laid off is a com­mon oc­cur­rence in to­day’s ever-chang­ing busi­ness world. Among your cir­cle of friends or fam­ily, you or some­one you know has likely ex­pe­ri­enced a lay­off and the nerve-wrack­ing process of fig­ur­ing what to do next. Whether the re­sult of a down­siz­ing, merger, ac­qui­si­tion, or lack of ap­pro­pri­ate fit within your com­pany’s evolv­ing cul­ture, it hap­pens more of­ten than you think.

The ques­tion is how should you po­si­tion a lay­off with a prospec­tive em­ployer? Af­ter all, get­ting it right could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween land­ing your next job or be­ing po­litely turned down.

First, know that com­pa­nies un­der­stand lay­offs hap­pen. The lay­off it­self is not their con­cern. What they are look­ing at is how you han­dle the lay­off, specif­i­cally how you speak about the ex­pe­ri­ence and your former em­ployer.

With that mind, here are some use­ful tips to frame the con­ver­sa­tion the right way:

Ad­dress the is­sue up­front

Do deal with the lay­off early in the in­ter­view process; it’s bet­ter to ad­dress it up­front. Do­ing so re­lieves the anx­i­ety of when to bring it up. Be hon­est and forth­right about what hap­pened.

Fo­cus on the pos­i­tive

Be suc­cinct about the facts, but al­ways fo­cus on the pos­i­tive as­pects of your ex­pe­ri­ence with your former em­ployer. Speak about what you achieved in your prior role and how those ca­pa­bil­i­ties re­late to the job at hand. Your goal is to ex­plain briefly why you’re in the mar­ket for a new po­si­tion with­out lin­ger­ing on the de­tails.

Never bad­mouth your former em­ployer

If there is one thing that can kill the in­ter­view and any chance of mov­ing for­ward, it’s bad­mouthing, com­plain­ing or speak­ing neg­a­tively about your former em­ployer. It doesn’t mat­ter if the lay­off was not han­dled well, or you har­bor re­sent­ment against the ex­pe­ri­ence; re­sist the urge to bring up any neg­a­tive views about the com­pany, your former boss, or your lay­off. Dis­play­ing neg­a­tiv­ity and bad­mouthing a pre­vi­ous em­ployer only frames you as a neg­a­tive, dis­grun­tled em­ployee who might also turn on them. No one is keen to em­ploy some­one who seems bit­ter, an­gry or neg­a­tive, and the in­ter­viewer likely will be con­cerned that this type of at­ti­tude may project it­self in the work en­vi­ron­ment. Keep your emo­tions in check. It is okay to say it was a dif­fi­cult pe­riod, but then be quick to point out that it has pro­vided you with an op­por­tu­nity to re­think what you want next from a ca­reer per­spec­tive. Do­ing so ac­knowl­edges you’re pos­i­tive about what the fu­ture holds. If asked what you’ve been do­ing since the lay­off, be hon­est about job seek­ing but also any com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties or in­ter­est­ing trav­els or ac­tiv­i­ties that may have hap­pened since your lay­off. Dis­play a pos­i­tive, well-rounded per­son­al­ity, and any neg­a­tive stigma should es­sen­tially dis­ap­pear.

Come to the in­ter­view in­cred­i­bly pre­pared

The best way to coun­ter­act any neg­a­tive stigma that could pos­si­bly arise is to dis­play traits that would make you the ideal hire. Pre­pare for your in­ter­view by do­ing ex­ten­sive re­search about the com­pany, the role, and how your ex­pe­ri­ences make you the per­fect fit. Ar­rive early. Come pre­pared with ref­er­ences. Send thank you let­ters im­me­di­ately af­ter­ward.

Al­ways re­mem­ber that dur­ing an in­ter­view the em­ployer is look­ing for how your ca­pa­bil­i­ties fit with the open po­si­tion as well as their cor­po­rate cul­ture. A lay­off does not need to negate your chances of get­ting your next job, so don’t let it. A few sim­ple do’s and don’ts can make the dif­fer­ence be­tween the lay­off be­ing an ele­phant in the room ver­sus it sim­ply be­ing part of your over­all ca­reer his­tory.

Rita Trehan is a free­lance writer who cov­ers global HR lead­er­ship and busi­ness growth. @Ri­ta_Tre­han

This spe­cial ad­ver­tis­ing sec­tion was pro­duced by The Wash­ing­ton Post Cus­tom Con­tent Depart­ment and did not in­volve The Wash­ing­ton Post news or ed­i­to­rial staff.

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