“Can you explain this gap in your work history?” It’s a job interview question dreaded by many, specifically those who have that gap after being laid off. But you can leverage this question into something positive that could secure you a brand new job.
1. Be Honest
You should never lie on your application or in an interview. Sure, you may get the job because of your lie, but then you’ll be branded as untrustworthy if your potential employer finds out, and that’s not hard for them to do – if you lie about being laid off, a hiring manager will find out with one short phone call to your old workplace.
Admitting you were laid off might sound bad to you, but it’ll prove that you’re trustworthy and your truthfulness will gain the hiring manager’s respect, since plenty would prefer to lie about such a thing.
If you really want to, you can bring it up yourself before the hiring manager gets a chance to. Controlling the narrative may help you be less nervous about it, and the hiring manager will always appreciate an applicant that knows how to be upfront and honest.
2. Be Specific
The way that you discuss being laid off is important, so watch your wording. Don’t use negative words when discussing the layoff – for example, never say you were “fired”. Being “laid off” often happens to plenty of people at once, isn’t necessarily the fault of the employees and, therefore, doesn’t have as negative of a connotation.
You should also be specific when it comes to metrics. Slip the percentage or number of employees that were laid off into your answer. Instead of simply saying “I was laid off by the company”, say “I was one of one hundred workers that were laid off by the company” or “the company laid off 50% of their workers, and I was one of them”. This way, you’re minimized in a bigger picture and your layoff won’t reflect poorly on you.
3. Be Positive
Being asked to explain your layoff is anxiety inducing, but it’s also an opportunity to further flex your skills and talents. After you explain that you were laid off, immediately turn the statement into something positive. You can take this in a number of different directions: discuss the great things you’d done for that company, the opportunities the layoff allowed you take afterwards, how you’re thankful for your time at that company due to the specific skills you learned, or the productive things you did with your spare time after being laid off. There are plenty of things you could say in this space, just remember to commit to being honest and specific here as well.
Being laid off isn’t something to be ashamed of – it happens to plenty of people, and it’s an opportunity to learn and grow as a professional. So, be honest about it when it comes up in an interview, and let all the ways you’ve learned and grown shine through.
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Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.
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