When interviewing for a job, most people get a little nervous. And if you've recently been laid off or fired from your last position, that fear may escalate to King Kong proportions because you may be concerned the interviewer will not see you as a viable candidate if you are currently without work.

But there is a way to put a positive spin on the fact your last job was eliminated and you've been without work for nine months, or that you were fired. Paul Green, an interviewing expert, says that if you have been fired or laid off, the important thing to bring to an interview is how you used that experience to improve yourself.

Specifically, he advises that you refer to your termination as "de-hiring" - and simply present the logic of how it happened in four or five sentences. If you have been laid off, there will be a certain degree of understanding from the interviewer since it has been more common in the last decade.

"But never, never say you were fired," Green says. "Don't ever say that word, because it will alarm the interviewer and they won't hear anything after that." Instead, Green advises that you say "you left by mutual agreement," and "present what happened - but don't sound defensive or cast blame."

He also says that you can tell an interviewer that you received a "tremendous" severance package that you decided to accept - if that is what happened.

He says that some interviewers may ask what you did to cause a de-hiring, and this is where your previous rehearsal of answers will become critical. "You practice, practice, practice all your answers to questions," he says. "Then get a friend to listen to you, or record yourself on videotape. Don't put your hands on your face, because it makes you look defensive. It's important that you be honest because that helps you maintain your dignity and that's what will come across."

If an interviewer questions you about a period that you were unemployed, you can respond that you used it to pursue additional education, or that you used it as family time to reassess your life and carefully plan your future.

"If you worked on a degree during this period, you can say that you wanted to just go to school for a time and get a jumpstart on your next position," Green says. "Or, if you were just at home, it is now reasonably acceptable to say that you were taking time for your family and you were looking at options. Express it as a real act of courage, that it's difficult to take the time to look ahead, but that's what you did."

Then, describe the outcome of these situations - you've furthered your education or you've had some very meaningful time with your family that has crystallized your future plans. Green calls this a time to "SHARE" - a process that allows you to give the interviewer comprehensive examples of times you used specific skills. Here's how it works:

  • Situation: Begin by describing the situation in which you were operating.
  • Hindrance: Describe any constraints or hindrances on your actions.
  • Actions: Explain exactly what you did.
  • Results: Describe the results that can be attributed to your actions.
  • Evaluation: Summarize the example with a positive evaluation of your skill.
Green advises preparing 15-20 honest and complete examples of times when you used different skills at work or in your personal life. By having these clear-cut examples on the tip of your tongue, and by sounding more confident, you have a better chance of answering difficult questions in an interview.

"By ending with a positive statement, most interviewers will then tag onto that," he says. "You always want to end each answer on a good note."

SOURCE: Adapted from Adapted from Anita Bruzzese, Take This Job and Thrive (Manassas Park: Impact Publications), pages 115-117. Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.