If you’ve been laid off, addressing this during an interview can feel uncomfortable and embarrassing. However hiring managers are going to want to know why you’re unemployed so coming up with a well thought out and practiced answer is key to addressing this question as gracefully as possible. As with all interview questions, you’re going to want to answer the question truthfully, explaining what you learned and how those lessons will ultimately become your strengths.
Process Your Feelings
Before your interview, it’s important to come to terms with why you were let go from your previous position and process the emotions you feel. It can feel scary and daunting to be applying for jobs when you’re out of work. You’re likely to be under more pressure financially and emotionally vs. trying to find a job while still employed. Adding to that the disorientation of suddenly not having the daily routine of work each day, and processing the negative emotions you may have around being laid off, is a lot. In an article on Forbes, they recommend taking some time to deconstruct what happened saying in part, “Speak with your boss, colleagues and others to understand why you were selected for downsizing instead of someone else. This serves a couple of purposes. If it turns out that you were terrific, but management called for a certain number of people from each division to be let go, then you know it’s not about you. If you did something that made the firm choose you, it will be an uncomfortable conversation, but ask for constructive criticism and feedback, so you can learn from the situation.” It’s important not to bring negative and resentful energy into your interview, so taking the time beforehand to process your emotions, coming to terms with what happened, and then moving forward in a positive manner is key.
Preparing Your Answer
Once you’ve done the emotional processing, you’ll want to prepare and practice how you’d address questions regarding your layoff during the interview. If you were part of a mass lay off, where for instance 10% of the workforce was laid off or your division was cut in half, use those statistics during the interview. Companies understand that in today’s market restricting and downsizing is not uncommon so use those numbers to your advantage. Another tip for answering this question is to keep your answer simple, straight to the point, and focused on what you learned. In an article on Indeed they recommend, “When discussing your layoff, focus on what you achieved when working for your former employer. Talk about your responsibilities and typical projects, and highlight specific metrics you achieved. This reaffirms the decision to lay you off likely wasn’t based on performance.” Try to be succinct, honest, and focused on the value you did bring to your last employer instead of just solely focused on the layoff itself.