Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to handle your layoff explanation on a job interview

Here’s a good article titled “The do’s and don’ts of explaining your recession lay-off.”  This is a thorny problem that leaves a lot of people feeling defensive, even if they’re one of millions of layoffs contributing to the 10% unemployment rate. That’s because it’s hard not to take it personally, especially when there are others who weren’t laid off. 
Most of the time you were just in the wrong position or the wrong department at the wrong time and thus became a statistic.  So in line with this excellent article, I’m going to take each point and in some cases, add some psychological insight and additional information as to why the author is making the points she is, because frequently that brings greater understanding. 
DO be the first one to address your layoff - In my opinion, regardless of who brings it up, you still get to frame it in your own terms, so in the case of this tip, there’s much more t.  The reason you want to bring it up is because it lessens the impact.  If you bring it up, it doesn’t appear that you’re trying to hide anything, which is what most job seekers do.  And by the way, know how you’re going to present it, and practice it in the mirror with a pleasant face and confident, comfortable tone of voice before you go on the interview.
DON’T weave a complex story - As Shakespeare said, “Methinks you doth protest too much.”  So sidestep Shakespeare by following that guy on Dragnet, Joe Friday, who said “Just the facts, ma’am.”  The more you talk, the more you sound defensive,  as if you’re trying to convince yourself that what you’re saying is true.  
DO mention if it’s a recession-related layoff - You’re one of millions.  There’s safety in numbers.  People default to the negative in order to find and avoid problems. Without inserting this point, you leave the interviewer the option of assuming “laid off” is a euphamism for “fired,”  thus concluding you’re a problem employee.  Control your spin!
DON’T speak poorly of your last employer - Besides what the author says, it’s immature.  If you make an immature decision in this area, what other immature behaviors will you bring to the company if you were to work there?  Additionally, it smacks of a victim mindset, rather than one who takes responsiblity.
DO mention if you were involved in a mass layoff - She covers this nicely.  Plus, see the “recession layoff” point above.
DON’T be afraid to say you’re not comfortable answering - Again, she handles this well and I’m glad she brought this up because so many forget that it’s a two-way street and hand every ounce of power over to the interviewer.  They’re afraid that if they don’t answer the question, if they don’t behave, they won’t be liked and they won’t get the job.  You’re not a 5-year old at dinner with your parents.  You can go against the grain.  Be respectful, and be polite and don’t give a whole paragraph on why you don’t want to answer the question.
DO discuss how you’ve filled your time - This, too, is covered well.  Especially the point about being honest. 
Preparation is key to knowing what you’re going to say and pulling it off poised and confidently.  Winging it isn’t a smart strategy.  When I was a recruiter, it was amusing to listen to how many canddiates who were actively looking would say after about the third interview,  “This is getting easier!”  So why not get some of those awkward answers you regret out of the way by shaping what you plan to say before you arrive?

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