How to Stand Out in an Interview—Even If You've Been Laid Off

Hi Lisa,

I have been laid off twice in a row. I had my performance review done by my boss two months previous to the most recent layoff. He was impressed with my work and received positive feedback from several clients I worked with. The last thing I expected is to be laid off. 

Even though, the lay off was not due to performance (as mentioned by the HR person during the layoff), I feel like a looser and keep thinking why is it happening to me twice in a row. I keep asking myself: What am I doing wrong? Why did I keep getting selected it to be laid off?

I'm not sure if it is only pure bad luck. It is been two months now and I'm still feeling sad and upset about losing my job. Who is going to hire a person who got laid off person twice? I'm sure hiring managers will think twice about why I got laid off twice. How do I address interview questions about the reason for leaving my previous jobs?

I want to move on but I'm not able to, I need help but I'm not sure what kind of help. I lost confidence in myself and lost trust in people and organizations. I feel I'm damaged and I do not know where to start.



Dear Frustrated,

First, I’m sorry to hear that you were laid off. I have experienced it myself and have worked with many clients in the same situation. It is important to know the feelings and thoughts you expressed are very common and normal. In fact, they are so common, that when I decide to update my book, Ace Your Interview, I added an entire section on this topic! 

So allow me to share with you an excerpt from my new book, now titled, Red Duck Interviewing (imagine a bright red duck among a sea of yellow ones). 

Here’s the excerpt:

Passion or Anger? It's Up to You

Remember, red is a color of intense and extreme emotion. It’s a color of both passion and anger. Think red as a reminder that your emotions and attitude count. As good as you may be at being positive and enthusiastic while working, if you are currently unemployed, the stress and fear of job transition may begin to show its ugly head.

When you are not working, you may find yourself more open to negative emotions. One moment you may be feeling positive and a few minutes later you’re feeling frustrated, ashamed, or embarrassed. One of my clients even told me, “It’s like I am wearing a sign around my neck—unemployed, failure, unwanted.” So it’s important to recognize that being unemployed is simply a current situation to deal with—not a character flaw—and that a successful interview starts by effectively managing these emotional twists and turns.

When we feel stress, often we are more intense, more defensive, sometimes even hostile or angry. Unfortunately, when we let our negative emotions drive our behavior, people who are in a position to help may run in the opposite direction. These intense or negative emotions make others feel uncomfortable.

Managing your feelings is an internal process that takes extra effort. That’s why I am including a few specific strategies to help you manipulate your thoughts and emotions so that they will serve you positively throughout your job search and interview process.

Do What You Always Do

Even when you are employed, looking for something new is a full-time activity in itself. Sometimes you can be so overwhelmed with finding a job that you forget to keep doing the things that you normally enjoy doing, the things that help you decompress and relieve stress. For some people it’s reading a book, for some it’s listening to music, while for others it might be going for a daily walk. You already know what’s best for you. You’ve been doing it for years. Now is definitely not the time to stop. In fact, this is the time to pump up the volume!

Smile More

The easiest step is to simply smile more. Smiling helps to prevent us from looking tired, worn down, and overwhelmed. And it turns out that smiling is a natural drug. In a surprising reversal of the cause and effect we traditionally recognize (we're in a good mood so we smile), new research shows that smiling can actually cause positive emotions. Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good.

So when you’re stressed out, you should smile, which can trick your body into a better mood. As an example, a client once told me that a friend had taken him to a local animal shelter to play with puppies on the day he got laid off. He told me he couldn’t stop smiling and that he was surprised at how helpful he found the experience.

So again, smile even when you don’t feel like it. Your stress will be reduced and you'll be better able to take action. Smiling is an extremely high-value behavior.

Laugh More

Studies show that laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and boosts immune function. It also triggers the release of endorphins and produces a general sense of well-being. There are lots of ways to increase the number of laughs per day: watch silly YouTube videos, watch stand-up comedy on cable (or better yet attend a live show), take a laughing yoga class (yes, it’s a real thing), hang out with your funniest friend, attend a story slam, listen to humorous podcasts, buy a book of your favorite cartoons, take an improv class (I did that once and I laughed for 2 full days), or watch your favorite sitcom. The idea is to purposefully spend time each day doing something that makes you laugh and to think of this time as part of your job interview preparation process.

Exercise More

Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, ward off anxiety, boost self-esteem, and improve sleep. Research has shown that exercise is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. Any form of exercise can help, including biking, dancing, gardening, tennis, swimming, walking, yoga, etc. Find something that makes your body feel good, and do it daily. Very soon it will make your mood good, too.

Create Positive Affirmations

Psychologists tell us that in times of distress, we tend to talk to ourselves. They term this behavior “self-talk.” It’s considered healthy, provided you are giving your distressed mind positive messages like “I can do it” and not “My future is bleak.”

Try repeating aloud, “I am a very strong candidate.” “My background and experience are a perfect fit for this position because of A, B, C (be specific).” “I’m excited about this position because X, Y, & Z (again, be specific).” Remember, employers are looking for someone who is excited and interested in working for them and is passionate about the work he will be doing. Whenever you catch yourself thinking negatively, stop those thoughts by flicking your wrist and saying, “Stop. That’s just irrational fear.” Then substitute your prepared rational thoughts.

These positive affirmations will become easier as you apply the steps in this book, because you will begin to see just how qualified you are. With a positive, emotionally healthy attitude, you can achieve your goals. It is absolutely fundamental.

I want to encourage you to create what I call your “job search positivity plan.” Determine which steps will best help you stay positive, put them on paper, and plan to do them. Take the time every single day to put your emotional health first and you will have the energy, the focus, and the drive to follow the strategies in this guide to land your ideal job!

Ms. Frustrated, as a way of saying thanks for sending me your question, I've sent you a pre-release copy of Red Duck Interviewing!  For everyone else, I created the special promotion: Visit for detailsHowever, here are the four key elements of my powerful red duck strategy. 

Element #1: Project a Powerful Online Image

First, in today’s market you must have an active professional online presence and powerful personal brand. In this book give detailed steps to develop a professional online presence that gets you noticed (in the right way!).

Element #2: Enhance Your Persuasive Power

Today it’s not enough to briefly review the company website. If you want to set yourself apart, you have to really dig deep. To help you be the most persuasive for each interview, explain a preparation process, so you can effectively choose and share the most important abilities, experiences, and traits from the perspective of the potential employers—the ones they will find most valuable and persuasive.

Element #3: Communicate in a Clear, Concise, and Compelling Manner

Once you’ve determined what the potential employer needs to know about you, you need to communicate your skills and accomplishments in a clear, concise, and compelling manner. I will go over the most common questions, and even uncommon ones, to teach you how to apply your carefully chosen persuasive accomplishments to any question the interviewer asks.

Element #4: Exude Humble Confidence

Finally, you have to exude a humble confidence for your in-person interviews. I will go over tips and techniques backed by science-based research to help you project a confident, positively persuasive impression on the phone, on Skype, and in person.

When implemented successfully, these step-by-step instructions will not just make you a good choice, they will make you the ONLY choice for the position. These techniques allow you to reveal your inner red duck and shine bright red, so that you stand out in a sea of yellow.

This is Lisa B. Marshall changing organizations, changing lives, and changing the world through better communication. If you’d like to learn more about leadership, influence, and communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk

As always your success is my business

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