Damian Birkel, founder of the nonprofit Professionals In Transition Support Group, Inc., has experienced downsizing and layoffs in his past and is now a certified career coach. He offers the following tips for job seekers interviewing after a layoff.
1. Use the time after a layoff to do research and prepare for interviews.
Maybe you didn't even like your last job, and it's a blessing in disguise that you're being forced to find something else. What are you well qualified to do? Use your time to figure out the next step and to get some training if you want to try a new field. Once you figure out the next steps and you know what skills your target employers want, you can practice explaining why you are a good fit.
"Research is an essential part of the job application and interview process," Birkel says. Dig into recent news about the company to understand how it has been portrayed in the media recently. Also be able to speak their language. Birkel suggests reading the annual report to learn about the company's recent history. "It's an absolute goldmine that most employees never read," he says. When you do, you'll have a leg up on the competition, and you'll find key company words you can build into interview answers.
2. Prepare to focus on the positive via a bridge statement.
A bridge statement is a neutral, unemotional statement that showcases what you've been doing since you left your job to make yourself a better candidate, Birkel explains. For example, "Since I've been out of work, I've been volunteering, using the time to build skills and take classes, attend seminars, set up consulting opportunities, doing industry research and networking." Focusing on the positive can have a strong emotional benefit and help boost your mood.
3. Prepare yourself emotionally before the interview.
Job interviews are stressful for everyone, but when you're worried someone may ask why you were let go from your last job, it can be even more trying. Especially if your search has gone on for awhile, recognize that it's normal to feel anxious and nervous. Birkel says one way to try to overcome these fears is to concentrate on how your skills are the answer to the organization's problems. You don't need to appear desperate. "Instead, concentrate on being the answer to their needs, focusing on how your skills fill the hole in their organization," he explains. "They're looking for people who can think on their feet, jump in and become team members without needing to spend too much time training."
4. Any job interview is great practice for the job interview.
If there's any chance you may be interested in the job, accept job interviews without hesitation. Even if you're not a perfect fit, you can practice your interviewing skills and be an even better candidate the next time. Birkel notes it's also possible that the interviewer will see you as a good fit for a different, unadvertised job, and you'll have one foot in the door.
5. You have the right to negotiate.
When the time comes to discuss salary – ideally, once you have an offer – recognize that if the organization wants to hire you, the fact you've been out of work should not play a role in your negotiations. Birkel says the best approach is to negotiate, demonstrate your value and stay firm when discussing salary.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.