An AOL reader asks, "I have been let go and I am collecting a severance package. How do I handle this in a interview? My former employer will not report anything negative if a prospective employer calls for a reference."
You're not alone! Many people face the same conversation in their interviews each day and in a volatile market, being downsized doesn't necessarily hurt your chances of finding new employment because employers often realize that many good employees were let go due to circumstances beyond their control.
If asked why you are currently in a job search, here are a few tips for handling the question with dignity and integrity while building trust and rapport with the hiring manager.
State the business reason for the downsizing.
Don't say you were fired or let go. The downsizing wasn't about you. State the business reason for the downsizing. Perhaps the company went out of business, moved the operation to a less expensive location, merged with another company creating job redundancies, or cut jobs across multiple functions due to declining profits. Explain the downsizing in the larger context and try to show scope whenever possible. Mention the big picture. Perhaps everyone in your department or at your professional level was terminated, or 10 percent of the work force across the board was let go. Prove that you were not the only one that was part of the downsizing.
Assure the employer you were not let go due to performance issues.
Let the hiring manager know that the termination had nothing to do with performance and offer to share previous performance reviews that show you were performing at or above company expectations. This type of transparency will potentially help build your credibility as a candidate and strengthen the relationship with the hiring authority.
Offer to share your references with the employer.
Generally employers don't check references until you are a final candidate or there is a job offer on the table. But by offering to share your references early on in the interview process, you send the message that you were a strong performer in your previous position and you have nothing to hide.
Add testimonials to your resume to prove you left in good standing.
Adding excerpts from a past performance appraisal, customer thank you letter, or recommendation letter to the resume can be another great way to eliminate any potential bias tied to the fact that you were downsized. This strategy can also help differentiate you as a candidate and make you more memorable in the eyes of the hiring manager.
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