Four Expert Tips on How to Answer Awkward Redundancy Questions in Job Interviews

Those moments when the “But why?” questions pop up are never pleasant. Prepare an answer for why you had a redundancy or why resignation was the reason for leaving your last job, but whatever you do don’t apologise, say our experts.

Restructuring, organisational transformation, and downsizing are all change management terms that are used nowadays to describe the changes that organisations are making for commercial sustainability. And for employees, that can often equal “that position is not needed”. You must remember that a redundancy that is a consequence for you, is not a reflection on you or on what you can bring to an organisation.

Resigning from your job or being made redundant can be an agonizing time. If you get challenged about either of these situations during an interview, consider our four expert tips and prepare yourself to speak confidently about where your strengths are!

#1 Be ready to answer why you left your last job

If you are currently unemployed or under-employed, prepare to be asked about it at job interviews. Write out a response and internalise it so it sounds natural. There is nothing to be ashamed of with a redundancy or leaving a job, but you need to be prepared and you don’t want to invite uncomfortable questions. Consider something like, “My last position was removed as part of a restructure that impacted a number of employees.” or “I am looking for X.” “Turn the conversation away from being made redundant, which you can’t control, to what you want,” says Patrick Arnfeld, Interview Coach at TheJobSearchCoach. Say it confidently and no one will inquire. Say it with fear and the interviewers will ask more questions that you don’t want to – and shouldn’t have to – answer. So write out your response and practice out loud until it sounds natural. The more confidence the better.

Government & public sector expert, Alun Probert from GovCom, agrees that you need to state your job move with confidence. “You should definitely not feel defensive about leaving or being made redundant from a past employer, especially if you have worked in the public sector.” And under no circumstance should you apologise for leaving a role or being made redundant. If you apologise for your situation, it will create a negative impression of you.

#2 Never mention the reason for leaving a job in your cover letter

On the flipside, there’s no reason to explain why you left your last job in your cover letter. “I wouldn’t mention your reasons in your cover letter as it will only draw attention to why you left or were made redundant,” notes Ben Stokes, Director of CVJedi.

Kevin Mallen, MD at Virtual Co-Workers, adds that it’s important to focus on the positives in your CV. Show off your strengths and what you have achieved. Don’t say why you left your most recent role.  Mention instead what you can bring and why the prospective job is so attractive.

Mentioning why you left your previous role is best left for interviews. You only need to expand on your reasons for leaving your current role at an interview, rather than in your application,” agrees Helen Seller, careers adviser and interview coach at TheJobSearchCoach.

What to do after redundancy: how I stayed motivated in my job hunt.


#3 Take a broader approach in your job hunt

When job hunting, you may try to match your skills with new job roles. However, don’t limit yourself to just looking for jobs exactly matching your skillset. If you focus too much on skills, you may miss out on other options. Why not spend time thinking about everything you enjoy – your interests, the things that fascinate you? Also consider your constraints. Is re-training an option? Can you take a drop in salary? Once you have narrowed down your options, make a list of the types of jobs to apply for.

Start by having a clear idea of what you want.  Draw a mental line between your experiences and the job you want so potential employers understand how to use your experience in a new environment.

Meanwhile Kevin Mallen, MD at Virtual Co-workers, says it’s worth looking into new sectors to see what would suit you best. “Speak with those in the sector, attend talks and meet ups, and ask to shadow work in different workplaces. You’ll get a feel for what’s out there and make connections that will help with your job hunt.”

#4 Take this time to find your purpose

When you’re unemployed or between jobs, it can be easy to rush into the first job you’re offered. You are often feeling isolated and perhaps even rejected from the redundancy experience. No one wants to be ‘not wanted’. Bronwyn Carman, HR Director, Australasia at Imperial Tobacco, recommends giving yourself space to find your ideal job and consider carefully each role you are considering. Take your time. Think about what you enjoy doing and what excites you in the workplace. What are you really good at? What did your previous manager acknowledge you for?? Each of us has unique skills that make up our own personal brand. Ask yourself ‘what is my personal brand’. These questions may uncover some answers for you and give you the confidence to prepare well for your future career.”

The key is deciding on what you want, and then staying motivated throughout your job hunt. “Barriers appear when an individual is unclear about where exactly they want to position themselves in the job market,” says Dominic Cudmore, employment lawyer and redundancy expert at JMF Law. Stay focused, replace negative internal dialogue and keep trying to get on to your new path.

Job hunting and interviewing is tough. Don’t give up when you hit roadblocks and remember to hunt wisely!


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