How to Handle Tough Interview Dilemmas (Lay-offs, Employment Gaps)
Looking to walk out of your next job interview unscathed? Learning to traverse the difficult
interview questions is important to every applicant’s survival.
Job Departures: Fired, Laid-Off, Quit
Odds are if you dread the departure question you will probably be asked the question! Why did
you leave your last company? Why did you get laid-off? Why did you get fired?
Why did you pack up your potted plant, family pictures, framed art and exit the building never to
return? This is a question most interviewees fear and most interviewers ask. Remember first
and foremost when this question arises, stay positive! Here are some tips for each individual
1. FIRED: Be honest, straightforward and quick with your explanation. Don’t get caught up in the
story and/or the politics. Explain what you learned. Remember they will check your references.
2. LAID-OFF: Be reassured. Many interviewers, employees and companies have experienced
lay- offs. Explain, “Because of the downward economy, the company decided to eliminate three
departments, including mine."
3. QUIT: Be honest, straightforward and quick. Explain that you weren’t being challenged
enough and that your former employer didn’t offer an alternative career choice. Mention that you
are searching for the next step on your career ladder and how this position is an ideal next step.
Experiencing employment set backs is common. Explaining them with professionalism and
wisdom will differentiate you from the applicant pool.
Job gaps are common. Some people leave the workforce due to personal illness or to care for a
loved one. Others become a stay-at-home parent and some enjoy a sabbatical or a personal
adventure. If you are in the midst of a job gap here are some tips to help you overcome your job
gap when re-entering the workforce:
1. Consider partial employment: freelance work, part-time job, or job sharing
2. Build your professional network (feed your network before you need it): join professional
organizations, volunteer in the community, school or civic organizations
3. Create a small business and provide exceptional services
4. Keep your skills current: additional degrees, certifications, licenses, training courses,
5. Keep your resume updated on an annual basis
While interviewing remember to remind the company of all the work history skills you possess for
the position and relevant skills you acquired during your job gap.
If you are just re-entering the job market remember to represent your employment record
honestly. Employers will contact your former employers and references. Additionally, enhance
your resume with meaningful content such as transitional employment, education enrichment,
skill development and committee service.