Anyone who’s been laid off can tell you that it’s difficult enough to tell friends and family without having to recount the story over and over again in interviews. Unfortunately, potential employers are going to want to know why you find yourself unemployed. Coming to terms with your recent layoff and building confidence is the first step to finding work again, but how? And once you’re back on your feet, how do you answer those inevitable questions? Like any other interview question, there are ways to answer these particular questions in ways that highlight your strengths and make the most of a typically unfavorable situation.
Trying to mask your layoff on your resume or blur the details can do much more harm than good. Not only will the employer likely pick up on your dishonesty, he or she will probably attribute it to a lack of confidence or respect. Be up front. Employers are more understanding than ever about layoffs in today’s job market, as many companies are restructuring in order to survive. Letting your interviewer know that you have nothing to hide will create a foundation of respect and understanding between you and your interviewer; an excellent start to the interview process.
In fact, not only shouldn’t you avoid the topic, you should be the one to bring it up. Facing the topic early in the interview can renew your confidence and allow both you and the employer to move on. It also allows you to be in control of the situation. Taking the initiative to discuss your layoff will show confidence, honesty, and independence, as well as give the employer less time to wonder about your particular circumstance before hearing your side.
This one is circumstantial, but if you’ve been laid off as a result of a restructuring, chances are others have lost their jobs as well. If you can come up with a solid, factual number—such as 100 other employees or 25% of your division—of people were laid off, it will take attention off of you in particular.
The above tactics can be helpful, but getting carried away in the details can quickly unravel your confidence. Keep your story clear, factual, and simple. Rambling shows insecurity and may cause an employer to think you are being dishonest. Plus, interviews are often fairly short, and you don’t want to waste too much of your already limited time to make an impression by dwelling on the negatives. By bringing up the topic early and keeping its time in the spotlight short, you can show your interviewer that there’s more to you as a professional than an unfortunate run-in with a changing economy.
Naturally, although you want to appear resilient, being laid off can have an impact on your confidence as an in-demand professional. Explaining how you’ve used your time off wisely to reflect on your experience, learn from it, and move on can show your interviewer that you’re mature and rational. If you’ve been out of the workforce for some time, make sure to emphasize what you’ve done to benefit your career during that time, whether it was working in temporary roles, volunteering, or taking classes to polish your relevant skills. Overall, the best way to offset your unfortunate lay-off is to be prepared with the right skills, attitude, and answers.
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