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‘ Outplacement Outtakes ‘ v.22 – Helping Janis to Temper Her Emotions When Talking about her Recent Downsizing

#careertransitionprogram #careertransitionprograms #careertransitionservices #hr #hrcanada #hrmanagers #hrsupport #humanresources #outplacement #outplacementcanada #outplacementprograms #outplacementservices Sep 06, 2023

In our last blog we started a discussion about how we help our outplacement program candidates answer tricky interview questions, especially the one concerning why they left their previous position.  If one didn’t leave their previous role on their own volition, there are generally only two other answers to this question: 1. “I was downsized” or 2. “I was terminated”.  Today we will look at how to answer the question if downsizing was the catalyst for career transition.

When we started the interview preparation process with Janis, her CMS Program Coach could see that her emotions – and subsequent opinions, were going to be a potential problem for her during an interview if they weren’t drawn to her attention and addressed.

Janis worked for a small, local protective services organization in an administrative capacity for approximately five years.  She was responsible for accounts payable and receivable as well as customer service functions.  As the owners reached retirement age, they decided to sell the company to a bigger, national firm. The sale was no secret to the staff as the final details were made, and it was expected that due to duplicate roles within each group, downsizings were inevitable.  In fact, the new parent organization was very open and transparent to all employees about forthcoming changes including the fact that the amalgamation would mean some would unfortunately have to be let go.

When her CMS Program Coach asked about her feelings on the recent merger, Janis launched into a detailed monologue about all the reasons she felt the owners of the original small firm should have held on to the company and put off their retirement.  She couldn’t understand how they could “sell-out” to a large “conglomerate”, and it was obvious that she held some bitter feelings about how the sale affected her and some of her colleagues.

When we hear emotional responses like Janis’ from our candidates, we let them vent for a reasonable amount of time. Venting of course, can be productive if contained. However, the most important thing her CMS Program Coach could then do is to help Janis to become aware of her emotions and how they may affect her answers in a future interview.  Janis’ Coach talked her through three key points to help her to develop a rationale response to the question, why did you leave your last position:

 1.    Avoid Assumptions: Because this downsizing event happened to her personally, it ‘felt big’ to Janis – and she may have assumed that others have heard of it.  This of course is not always the case and assumptions during interviews can make the conversation awkward and quickly go off track.

2.    Don’t Speculate: We advised Janis to be honest but not to get into speculation regarding why the sale happened the way it did or how the company could have done it better.  In addition, her emotions may have prompted her to make negative comments about her previous employer if not addressed – which obviously would not leave a positive first impression with someone who is in a position to change her employment status!

3. Leave Baggage at Home:  Although interviewers will be interested in why Janis left her previous employer, they are not interested in her opinions of the last company.  At CMS we worked with Janis to develop answers that were honest, professional and to the point, enabling her to refocus the conversation around her skills, experience and how she can contribute to this new potential employer.

It is important for our Program Coaches to remind our outplacement program candidates that interviewers do not know the people involved in one’s past and they have no way of making a judgment. But they can judge the candidate and how they deal with the situation today – which is one thing our candidates can control to their advantage!