Last week I interviewed John. During our conversation I found out that he was only on the market because he had been laid off from his last position. That's okay. These things happen.
I also found out (despite my best intentions to steer him differently) that John had really loved his last position, that he would never have left on his own, that he missed his last position, and that it had been ideal for him with his unique set of skills. These factoids were all wrapped up in a long rambling story about the industry and company events that had led management to make the decisions to do layoffs.
What I couldn't seem to get at was why he was interested in the job that he had applied for and how his skills were going to benefit my company. He was very qualified for the job, but he landed in the "no go" pile anyway.
I have some colleagues who prefer not to hire candidates who have been laid off from their prior position on the theory that the low performers are put on the layoff list first. I've managed enough workforce reductions in the past decade to know that perfectly good employees land on the layoff lists for reasons beyond their control. So I'm not adverse to interviewing them - if anything, I am empathetic to their plight and secretly hoping they'll do well in the interview.
However, I do look for evidence that the candidate is the kind of person who can handle adversity, bounce back, and move on. Therefore, I am very sensitive to how people handle questions like "What has you looking for a new career opportunity at this time?" And I definitely tend to pass on cover letters that start with the phrase that "Only an unexpected layoff has me looking for a new position at this time..."
As a recruiter or hiring manager, I am interested in four primary things:
- Can you DO the job at hand (i.e., do you have the skills and experiences)?
- Do you WANT to do this job?
- Can you BUILD PRODUCTIVE RELATIONSHIPS with my employees and clients?
- Are we a MATCH in terms of culture and work style?
Notice that none of these areas require a job seeker to go into a lengthy discussion of how much he loved his past job and how and why management made layoff decisions. The only way to get back into the workforce is to focus on the work you can and will do in the future.
Bottom line: If you are only on the market due to a layoff, let go of the past and focus on what your potential employer is looking for and how you can meet those needs.