There is less stigma associated with being made redundant today than ever before because corporate restructuring, downsizing, outsourcing and cost cutting measures are quite common. However, some still find it difficult to tell interviewers and potential employers about it. For some, it is their pride that is at stake. For others, they feel that they would be disadvantaged by revealing the truth.
Most people feel that employers would not view a retrenched individual favorably. Employers may be concerned that the individual was made redundant because of performance issues, attitude or conflict. Individuals also feel that once a potential employer knows that he is currently unemployed, they would lose their bargaining power and be offered a far lower salary than if they were still employed.
However, if the individual chooses to omit this information during the interview process, the consequences might be far worse later on. We’ve all heard it said that the “world is small” and there’s only 6 degrees of separation from one person to the next. Therefore, it is not difficult for a potential employer to find out the truth behind the person’s reasons for exploring a new role. The act of omitting the information raises suspicions and the employer may draw negative conclusions about the candidate.
How do you communicate the reality of your exit without letting it impact your candidacy? What can you tell interviewers so that your retrenched status becomes a non-issue?
When notified of the impending downsizing exercise, there is usually an official statement or message from the company’s management. The affected individual should speak to the direct superior or with HR to get more details. Common reasons include cost cutting measures where entire teams or layers have been disbanded, the operations may have moved to a lower cost location, the entire function may have been outsourced to a third party, or the job may simply no longer exist. Repeat the official story to potential employers in a matter-of-fact tone, removing all trace of bitterness.
Candidates will be asked why they are looking to change jobs. When asked, candidates who are still employed will typically state that they are looking for new challenges, or new growth, or a better environment in which to excel. However, what can an unemployed candidate say to the interviewer?
It’s ok to tell the potential employer that you have been affected by a restructuring exercise. It might be even better to tell them the facts being asked, thereby getting it out of the way early so everyone can focus on the key objectives of the interview – how you, the candidate, fit the role requirements and can add value to the company moving forward.
Another way to erase all doubts about performance is to offer to let the potential employer speak to a referee (or two). In this instance, the best referee is obviously a direct supervisor or someone fairly senior who has worked closely with you in the recent past. It does not matter if the referee has also been affected by the restructuring.
Give the interviewer all the facts where possible. Information such as how many people have been affected, which location the operation has been moved to, how tasks and responsibilities have been divided up, what the new structure looks like and so on. Such information would reinforce the fact that your exit from the company was not performance related.
Being in transition gives an individual several positioning advantages. The candidate can be very direct and open about the fact that he is pursuing other job opportunities and is currently speaking to several potential employers. This can be used as effective leverage in expediting the interview and offer process.
In fact, a major advantage is the candidate’s ability to start work on short notice, and not have to serve out a lengthy notice period.
Being in transition also does not mean that the candidate should succumb to pressures to lower salary expectations. Solid candidates have been known to maintain or even increase their compensation in line with the value they bring to the role.
It is said that employers look for a positive attitude, more than just competencies. Reframe your exit in a positive light – a new beginning, a new challenge, an opportunity to reinvent!
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