Downsizing is a fact of life in the corporate world today. This week's article addresses this issue and how to work around it if it happens to you.
Question from a Subscriber:
I was downsized from my job at Merrill Lynch a couple years ago. For the first 6 months I didn't want to work anywhere but Merrill Lynch so I applied to many jobs listed on their corporate website. A little over a year after the layoff, I found a job working at Merrill through a temp agency. This was going very well but on the thirteenth day someone in the recruiting department found out and I was told my assignment was ended.
Later I applied to Morgan Stanley and talked to two Operation Managers who were interested and told me to email my resume to them. The next time I talked to them they had gone from hot to cold. One of them asked me what had happened at Merrill Lynch after I had previously told him that I was downsized. I wonder if the HR people at Merrill Lynch have disseminated any information outside of Merrill Lynch to other HR personnel or to a web board. I say this because it seems like I am up against a stacked deck with everything that I apply to.
Keep in mind that if you're downsized from a company, they don't want
you to work there any more so you need to accept that and move on. If you feel that they are giving out false information, you can pay a background check firm to check your references and find out what Merrill Lynch is saying about you. In the event that they are lying about something, you could sue them.
The thing about references is, an employer can legally say anything about you that is a statement of fact. What is illegal is when an employer says something that they know is false. For example, an employer can make a statement like "Paul came in late three times a week if it's true." However, the employer cannot say something like "Paul did not get along with his co-workers," unless you in fact, did not. When it comes to opinions, it's not as cut and dry. An employer can say something like "Paul doesn't like to work," but it is a subjective statement and could be challenged in court.
Even if your employer is not lying, they may be saying something negative that is hurting your chances of being hired somewhere else. In that case, you could probably get them to stop by having an attorney send them a strongly worded letter. You can use a reference checking firm to compile some hard evidence that will make your attorney's job much easier.
A reference checking firm is a company who will call your references and check them out for a small fee.
My advice would be to come up with a way to "spin" your being laid off from Merrill Lynch. If you find that something is preventing you from getting your ideal job, (or any job for that matter) you need to do something about it. If it's something like a reference or skill you have listed on your resume, just get rid of it altogether. But if you find that it is your long time job that is causing you a problem, you need to turn a negative into a positive. You need to figure out a way to present yourself in a favorable way. Make it so that it is clear talented people were laid off- and place yourself in this "talented" category.
Towards this end, it would probably help for you to get as many facts about the downsizing as possible. What percentage of workers were cut? Did it happen in several departments? The more information you can concisely provide about the downsizing, the better. The goal here is to illustrate that it was a corporate decision that had nothing to do with your actual performance on the job. You also don't want to dwell on it too much. In fact, if they don't ask you why you stopped working at your last employer, you don't need to volunteer the information.
Keep in mind that it might look strange for you to show on your resume that you were laid off from Merrill Lynch and then went back to work for them for a week. That would be really hard to explain in an interview, so you might want to leave the temp job out. Your resume is the first glimpse people have of you. Make sure it's a clear picture and it shows your best side!