By Beth Colley
This may also be asked, "Why were you laid off?"
When you have lost your job due to a layoff, you do need to be prepared to explain what happened -- very carefully.
It is a common fact -- companies increase staff during periods of economic boom, and companies reduce staff to reduce expenses when business is bad, like when the Coronavirus pandemic requires the business to shut down.
Employees are typically the largest "expense" for any employer, so reducing the number of employees immediately reduces expenses.
The Coronavirus caused millions of layoffs, so, if the pandemic was the cause of your job loss, the explanation does not need to be long or detailed. Clearly, the problem was the pandemic, not your job performance, so do not feel the need to be defensive.
When a business or economic downturn has impacted an organization, reducing the level of staff is the fastest way a company can cut costs.
That choice is often the option selected by corporate management looking for a quick fix. As a solution, it rarely works. When an employer begins laying off staff, they usually end up doing more layoffs later.
Whether the term used is layoff, downsizing, redundancy (in the U.K.) or reduction in force (a.k.a. "RIF"), the result is the same. You lost your job and were involuntarily separated.
Rather than squirm in your seat while you figure out how to discuss your involuntary separation, think through your answer in advance so you can provide the right response for the situation.
Answering the question, "Why did you leave your last position?" will likely be uncomfortable. Preparation is your best strategy.
You do not want sympathy from the interviewer. Nor do you want to seem angry. You want to show them that you are moving on with your career.
Follow these 5 simple rules when you answer:
A job interview is NOT a time to share grievances or speak disparagingly against an employer.
When it's time to respond to the "Why did you leave your last job?" question, take a deep breath, be brief, answer the question, and stay positive.
Do NOT say something like this:
We were in a tough market, and management wasn't paying attention to what our customers wanted and what our competitors were doing. When sales dropped dramatically, it wasn't surprising that profits disappeared too. So management ended up laying off most employees rather than reducing their own salaries and bonuses.
OR like this
We could see the Pandemic coming but, instead of adapting our procedures to enable us to survive -- as many of us recommended -- the owner just shut the company down. It was a stupid thing to do that cost over 300 of us our jobs, but he's enjoying a permanent vacation.
Instead, these are better ways to answer this question:
If you are angry about your layoff, deal with it. Dump the anger out, privately, NOT on social media!
Do not let the anger grow -- you will probably have a "bad attitude" that will show and impact your interactions with employers and recruiters, damaging your chances of landing a new job.
The best thing to do following an involuntary separation is to stay busy by enrolling in a class, becoming active in a professional organization, and/or volunteering your time with a local organization while you seek a new job.
These strategies provide a platform for learning, increasing your professional visibility, and skill building. Demonstrate personal and professional growth through these experiences, and share that during an interview.
You did nothing wrong -- you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time! So do not feel like you have any apologizing to do. But, in the interview process, do ask about the employer's history with layoffs, and, of course, be wary if they have just had a layoff or seem to be in the process of down-sizing.
Beth Colley CEO/owner of Chesapeake Career Management Services has guided over 1,200 job seekers to career success since joining the careers industry in January of 2000. She is a Certified Master Resume Writer, a Certified Career Management Coach, and a Certified Brain Based Success Coach and an active member of Career Directors International, The National Resume Writers Association, and Career Thought Leaders.