BW: How to Address a Layoff in an Interview

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In the middle of what has become known as The Great Recession, layoffs were all-to-common in many industries. Addressing this kind of career-altering event can be a sensitive subject, especially in subsequent job or MBA admissions interviews.

Bloomberg Businessweek recently asked business school admissions and jobs experts about how applicants should approach a layoff when applying for an MBA program.

Two members of the Goizueta staff shared their thoughts.

“Often, I find candidates try and rework their resumes to make the layoff harder to detect, but I do not recommend that strategy because the application and interview require a sequential accounting of their work history,” Julie Barefoot, associate dean of MBA Admissions at Goizueta told Businessweek. “The layoff will come out in the end and then applicants can’t discuss it on their own terms. It’s always best for the applicant to control the situation and, in a sense, the messaging to the admissions officer/committees.”

Honesty is the best policy, with multiple experts telling Businessweek potential students should be open in addressing their situation and, if out of work for a period of time, find ways to stay motivated and productive.

“When applicants discuss their layoffs, it’s important they are up-front about their job status, and they should share what they’ve been doing to either secure another position and/or how they have productively spent their time since their layoff,” Barefoot added.

But applicants shouldn’t dwell on a layoff or over-explain their past when talking with admissions offices or recruiters.

“The biggest mistake is when they go into too much detail about the situation,” added Wendy Tsung, associate dean and executive director of MBA Career Services. “Everyone knows the last few years have been challenging. State what happened, how you were impacted, what you learned, and then move on.”

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