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While there’s likely little you can do when facing a layoff, what you can control is how you handle it afterward. If you’re getting ready to interview for your next gig, well, first, congratulations are in order. But what do you do when it’s time to talk about being laid off?
There’s a strong chance that you’re going to be asked to explain any gaps in your resumé during your interview, so it’s in your best interest to be prepared. I spoke with Toni Frana, lead career expert at FlexJobs and Remote.co, for some tips about how to address a layoff at a previous job while you’re trying to land yourself a new one.
Be prepared, and stay positive
When it comes to layoffs, Frana says it helps to first give yourself some perspective. Layoffs happen across all industries, and hiring managers understand it’s not always indicative of an applicant’s capabilities, so it’s in your best interest to be open and direct. “There’s no need to make excuses or try to sugarcoat the situation,” she says. A better tactic is to, “subtly [acknowledge] that it was a large, business decision-driven layoff, rather than a result of your past performance. Clearly state the facts, explain that you are looking forward to new opportunities, and move on.”
So how exactly should you go about phrasing your own experience getting laid off? Frana gives an example of what a strong candidate’s response may sound like:
“Yes, I was part of a layoff at my last company. You might have seen in the news that they downsized to create a more sustainable business model. Unfortunately, my department was completely eliminated. While I was disappointed, I recognized that it was a decision that reflected the changing business climate the company is in. I see it as an opportunity now, for a new role where I can contribute my talents to an organization like yours.”
Obviously the specifics will vary, but whatever wording you settle on, make sure to write out a sample script beforehand, so that you’re not caught off-guard and left fumbling for words.
Practice reframing the conversation
It’s natural to feel stressed about explaining why you were let go from your last position, but having a plan on how you’ll answer the question and practicing your response before the interview can help put your mind at ease. After you address the layoffs, Frana advises redirecting the conversation to “[bring] the focus back to what you have to offer as a candidate.”
If you’re still stressed, think about it like this: Being laid off is a short chapter of your professional history. Moreover, Frana adds, despite the way things ended, “chances are, you’ve gained extensive experience and skills while working for your last company.” You can positively reframe the conversation along these lines by saying something like:
“I’m still thankful for my time [at your last job], despite how things may have ended, and that I’m looking at the situation as an opportunity for new challenges and opportunities.”
Rather than harping on one negative experience, Frana notes, you’ve added a positive spin that allowed you to focus on your larger work history.
Don’t feel pressured to bring it up on your own
Finally, if your interviewer doesn’t directly ask about why you left your last job, don’t go out of your way to bring it up. Frana reminds us that it’s not required that you disclose information about why you left a previous job
However, don’t merely hope the topic goes unmentioned. Asking a candidate why they left their last employer is a standard interview question, so be prepared. “It’s important that if posed with the question, you’re honest, clear, and transparent about why you were laid off,” Frana says. At the end of the day, your interviewer understands how impersonal layoffs can be, and they aren’t out to get you. Answer their questions, stay confident, and move the interview along.