Interviewing Advice: Addressing a Layoff

A layoff can be an unpleasant experience and probably not one you want to relive over and over during interviews. The way you handle this topic can make or break an opportunity to move forward with your career and leave the past behind.

– DO be the first one to bring up your layoff. Many times a recruiter starts off with, “Tell me about yourself”. Tell them about your career achievements and goals first, and then take the opportunity to explain your recent layoff. You can explain it on your own terms, instead of letting the interviewer formulate questions about it. Avoiding or hiding the issue only makes your interviewer think you did not take the layoff well or that you have more to hide.
– DO mention if it is related to the recession. Today, even though layoffs can be embarrassing, many recruiters are not surprised when candidates mention a layoff resulting from the poor economy.
– DO mention if you were part of a mass layoff (one of many or your whole department). A mass layoff takes the attention off why you, personally were laid off. A single person getting laid off makes a recruiter wonder. A good way to describe a mass layoff is, “There was a staff decrease. Two hundred positions were eliminated, including mine.“
– DO tell them what you have been doing in your time away from work. Be prepared because they do ask about this. Always tell them that job-searching and networking has become your number one priority! Tell them if you took a month to relax. Tell them if you have been doing consulting and freelance work. Be honest.

Do Not’s
– DO NOT make it a complex story. If you are still upset about your layoff, do not let it show or ramble on about why you were let go. Telling a complicated story (there was reorganization, and your boss told you not to worry, but they kept your co-worker instead because she had more experience…) indicates that there was more reasoning behind your layoff. Simply say, "There was reorganization and unfortunately my position was eliminated.” Move on to the next question.
– DO NOT speak negatively of your last employer, co-workers or the job itself. This is very unprofessional, and again, makes your interviewer think twice about why you were laid off.
– DO NOT forget that you can tell them if you are uncomfortable answering. If your interviewer keeps asking about it, tell them you prefer not discussing it. This does not affect whether you get the job or not.

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