September, 2004. Three months after I got my MBA. Almost all of my classmates have started working. I was still looking for a job in consumer software product management.
I had two good phone interviews with a large Internet company. I was asked to talk to the hiring manager before they decided whether to fly me in for onsite interview.
I called the hiring manager. She opened the conversation:
"Sorry to be blunt. You went to a pretty good business school. Why are you still looking for a job this late while everyone else has started working for several months? That’s a big question mark I have" — her tone was condescending.
I paused for a second. "Actually, I purposely skipped all of the on-campus recruiting because during recession, very few west-coast high tech companies came to Chicago to recruit MBA students. I wanted to move to the west coast. And I wanted to look for product management jobs only in consumer software. It’s my own choice to go against the tide, and follow my own path. This should show you my confidence and determination. This shouldn’t work against me."
I was asked to fly in for a round of onsite interview. And soon I got a very good job offer.
I’m telling this story not because I want to brag about my past. đź™‚ For folks who get laid off, you’ll be asked why you’re looking for a job. Instead of sugar-coating what’s happened, I think you should be direct, confident and strategic when you answer this question.
"I was laid off. But, I have accomplished X, Y, Z. I have 3 references who will speak highly about my tenure at the company. I have learned several important lessons, and here is how I can apply these lessons at your company, and help your company to grow".
Direct, confident and strategic — turn your layoff experience into an advantage, instead of disadvantage.
Happy job hunting.