How Should I Position a Lay Off?

I recently lost my job as a result of downsizing at my nonprofit. How do I answer questions about being laid off? I am eager to get back to work, but I'm worried employers will see this as a deficit in my experience.

Sincerely,
Downsized Yet Upbeat

Sorry to hear you were laid off. It's never easy to leave a position unexpectedly, especially as a result of downsizing.

Chances are an interviewer will ask you why you left your most recent position. Just be honest and explain the general conditions under which you left, without giving too much detail about the situation or speaking negatively your past employer. For example, this is not an appropriate response:

"My past employer totally messed up managing its grants and as a result they had to let go over half the staff. I have no idea why my position was on the chopping block, but I guess the management team didn't really know what they were doing."

Instead, try a more discreet and respectful approach, such as:

"My past employer found itself in a position where lay-offs were inevitable. While I was disappointed to leave my job, I understand the tough choices that management had to make. I will definitely be able to provide a reference from this employer, and I am grateful for the time I spent there."

However, if lay-offs were the result of publicly known information, such as an acquisition or merger, it's ok to reference this in your answer. Just remember to speak neutrally of your past employer's situation and not appear as "gossipy."

Also, if there's a time gap on your resume as a result of being laid off, make sure you're able to address what you've been doing during that time. Did you volunteer or take on a pro bono assignment? Did you pursue a hobby that you've always wanted to do? Did you take classes? If so, you can reflect this information on your resume, as well as be prepared to discuss how you productively used any gap between employment during an interview.

Remember, lots of people are downsized, and they go on to land amazing positions. With honesty and straightforwardness, you will be able to navigate any interview situation and position getting laid off in the best possible light.

Interested in learning more about Commongood Careers' advising services? Contact advising@commongoodcareers.org.

This article was written by Dana Hagenbuch.