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EP 1367 How did you do it? How did it feel?

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This question comes out of, "The New York Times," an interview with Max Levchin who was a director with Yahoo, former CTO with PayPal, started Slide, help start Yelp and is now starting another firm.

He says he asks this question of senior professionals on his interviews. And, I think, it is a good question to be prepared for.

The question starts off by asking, "Have you ever done a layoff? What did you do? How did it feel?"

He isn't trying to find out whether you brought them into a conference room or not. He is looking for signs of emotional maturity or not. Especially for leadership, this is 1 of the key factors you want to demonstrate on an interview.

You start off your answer by "sinking" a little bit emotionally. "You know, I have done them. There is never an easy way to do it." You need to change your voice from sounding enthusiastic to serious, sad, and softer. You continue on by saying, "I brought individuals into her room and told them personally. From there I tried to help him find another position in trying to be of further help to them. I reached out to a number of my contacts and, where possible, handed them a slip of paper and said, 'Call this person. They may have something for you.'" If that is not you, don't say it. After all, the law I can get exposed.

You can continue on by saying, "What I did afterwards was really hard. As they were packing up, as they were saying their goodbyes, I help them. I help them from a place, not from trying to get them the heck out of here fast, but to talk with them one to one as a human being and be of assistance. There is no easy way to say goodbye to someone who has given their blood and guts to an organization, who has cared as much as some of these folks have and still do without being a human being and wanting to break down. So that's what I did. I hope I never have to do it again."

So, they are not looking for you to tell them that you brought a group of them into a conference room and announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have the…"Or anything like that. They are not looking to hear you talk about how you brought them into something like a union hall to announce mass layoffs. It is about what happened afterwards.

When you listen to the recording, I tried to emulate how I want you to demonstrate how you felt and how you would express it, how difficult it was for me just to say it and I had not experienced it like you might have (I have laid people off and, emotionally, tried to go back to that space and remember how it felt.).

Try to connect with that time that you did it and how hard it was, Continue on by talking about how you help them pack, talked to them individually and, where appropriate gave phone numbers, names and email addresses of people that they can reach out to you from your network … That will demonstrate that you have compassion for your employees, as well as care, and then you will win that interview question.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1300 episodes and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice.” He is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was recently named a Top 10 podcast for job search. was also recently named a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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