THERE is less of a stigma associated with being made redundant today than ever before because corporate restructuring, downsizing, outsourcing and cost-cutting measures have become more common.

However, many individuals who have been affected by a corporate restructuring exercise still find it difficult to tell interviewers and potential employers about it.

For some, it is their pride that is at stake. Others feel that they would be at a disadvantage if they reveal the truth.

Most people feel that employers do not view a retrenched individual favourably.

Employers may be concerned that the individual was made redundant because of his poor performance and attitude or because he was a source of conflict.

Some job seekers also believe that once a potential employer knows that they are currently unemployed, they will lose their bargaining power and be offered a far lower salary than if they were still employed.

However, if a person chooses to omit information about his retrenchment during the interview process, the consequences might be far worse later on.

It’s a small world

It is often said that there are only six degrees of separation between one person and the next.

Therefore, it is not difficult for a potential employer to find out the truth behind a candidate’s reasons for exploring a new position.

The act of omitting the information alone makes the candidate look suspicious, and the employer may draw negative conclusions about his departure from his previous job.

So, how do you communicate to a potential employer that you have been retrenched without it impacting on your eligibility for a job?

What can you tell interviewers so that your job status is a non-issue?

1. Get an official statement

When staff members are notified of an impending downsizing exercise, there is usually an official statement or story from the company’s senior management.

Affected employees should speak to their direct superior or human resource manager to get more information.

Common reasons include cost-cutting measures (where entire teams have been disbanded), the relocation of operations to lower-cost sites, the outsourcing of a function to a third party or the cessation of certain jobs altogether.

Repeat the official story to potential employers in a matter-of-fact tone, without any trace of bitterness.

2. Pre-empt the question

Candidates will invariably be asked why they are looking to change jobs.

When asked, those who are still employed will typically state that they are looking for new challenges or new growth or a better environment in which to excel.

If you are an unemployed candidate, it is okay to tell your potential employer that you have been affected by a restructuring exercise.

It might be even better to tell him the facts before being asked, thereby getting it out of the way early so everyone can focus on the key objectives of the interview — how you, the candidate, fit the role requirements.

3. Offer referees

Another way to erase any doubts about your performance is to offer your potential employer the chance to speak to a referee.

In this instance, the best referee is obviously a direct supervisor or someone fairly senior who has worked closely with you in the recent past. It does not matter if the referee has also been affected by the restructuring.

4. Highlight pertinent details of the restructuring

Give the interviewer important information such as how many people were affected by the restructuring, which location the operation has been moved to, how the former employees’ responsibilities have been divided up, what thenew structure looks like and so on.

Such information points to the fact that your exit from the company was not performance-related.

Look on the bright side

Being in transition gives you several other positioning advantages.

You can be very direct and open about the fact that you are pursuing many other job opportunities and are currently speaking to several potential employers. This can be used as an effective negotiation tool.

Being in transition also does not mean that you should succumb to pressure to lower your salary expectations.

If you have a solid track record, it is possible to maintain or even increase your salary because of the value you will bring to the role and the market forces of supply and demand.