Microsoft Layoff

How to overcome a layoff from a Large Box Employer

Microsoft Layoffs and how candidates can bounce back

Here in Seattle, Washington the big news this past week was the Microsoft layoffs of close to 18,000 employees and vendors. This is huge number for any company but until something like this happens in your city, it is an easy topic to read and forget. When it happens in your hometown it becomes very real. An internal memo published in Geekwire is linked here. With Microsoft being one of the larger employers in the Seattle / Redmond area, everyone knows someone that works for this tech giant and we are thinking about how the announcement of the Microsoft layoff will affect our friends.

First, I would like to say I feel for those that were laid off last week. Getting laid off sucks under any circumstance. I am sure that for current Microsoft employees, questions about the future are looming as well. With job uncertainty in mind, this week’s goal is to provide job search insight for those affected by the Microsoft layoff.

For those new to the site, I started this blog in 2008 to help candidates that were displaced from their employer when the economy turned. The goal was to provide current insights on the job search process. Although todays post is applicable to anyone, I will specifically message Microsoft employees as they search for their next gig. It has been less than a week and already I have received half a dozen resumes from friends, or friends of friends that are looking for new positions including employees that were tenured and full time employees.  The Microsoft layoff isn’t just vendors.

There will be a number of long tenured employees affected by the Microsoft layoffs and in my experience, it is this demographic that has the toughest time making a transition to another company. When the economy took a turn in 2008, there were a lot of folks who couldn’t find a job. Obviously, there were fewer jobs, but I saw something else. There were a lot of unemployed candidates that had been employed by a single employer for 10 – 15+ years.  For these laid off candidates, so much changed in the job search world over those 10 – 15 years while they were employed that it was like stepping out of a time bubble and into a new era. Unemployed candidates were writing their resumes and conducting their job searches in 2008 – 2010 in the same way they wrote their resume and conducted a job search in the 1990’s.  Each of those 15 years was the equivalent of a dog year (7).  

Both Big Box Employer / Long Term Employer provided job security. The fear of being laid off by these employers was eliminated and there was no reason to keep up with current job search practices. The assumption was that we were going to retire with a company so there wasn’t any reason to think about LinkedIn or professional networking. There wasn’t a need to keep updating our resume.

With fewer jobs and plenty of unemployed candidates in 2008, employers become very picky. I observed first hand how candidate interview skills had become outdated and the interview process had become more sophisticated. Applicant Tracking Systems, LinkedIn and other online resources provided employers with more tools to leverage and this tightened the interview gauntlet.  Sophisticated millenniums with their personal blogs, digital portfolios and online job search savvy, upped the ante for both schools of candidates. It was a perfect storm of job security, technology and a new generation of skills. In the end, candidates that didn’t keep current were passed over.

Standard dating example

If we were dating our significant other and then became married in the early or mid 90’s we were done with single bars. With marriage, we are no longer worrying about the dating scene. If we added a child or two, our priorities shifted from the latest dance steps to our kids. We were hanging with mommy groups and we didn’t worry about the evolution of online dating resources like Craigslist, FriendFinder, or Tinder. Maybe we went an extra season or two before updating our wardrobe and visits to the gym became less frequent. AKA, we let ourselves go. If we find ourselves separated / divorced in 2014, we shouldn’t go back on the dating scene with our Running Man and Cabbage Patch dance moves. The newspaper’s personal ads and bar scene has been replaced by Facebook and Tinder. Our 5-year-old baggie jeans are now replaced with straight legs. In the end, singles that didn’t keep current are going to be passed over. Sound familiar?

If we interview for a job with the same process and practices that landed us a job 10 years ago we will remain unemployed.

If you are in a situation where you have tenure and suddenly find yourself swimming with the sharks, I would like to try and provide some insight so that you can win this game. The following is what I have counseled to Microsoft employees that have been laid off in the past.

The first thing I say to anyone that is laid off from any company: Sign-up for unemployment. This is not the time to be too proud. Unemployment isn’t a last resort, it is a proactive move. Unemployment checks are funds that you are entitled to and I would say you really need help if you pass on this. Sign-up can be done online and there isn’t a need to visit the unemployment office every week. If you received a severance package that is being paid out over a course of time, we are obviously not eligible for unemployment yet, but we can start the networking and interview process. Sign-up as soon as you are eligible because it takes 10 days before your first check is processed.

Feel good about your assets as a Microsoft employee.

  • Microsoft is a great brand to list on a resume. Microsoft is a world-class employer so they don’t have to hire just anyone. Know that you have a solid skill set. As opposed to working for an unknown employer, everyone in the world knows Microsoft. You won’t have to explain your last employers product or results.
  • Microsoft has had a lot of successes in the past, so chances are that you were working in a business unit that will provide you significant resume material. This makes it easier to quantify our accomplishments and talk about results on our resume and in the job interview. Just explaining what you didn’t isn’t enough. We need explain how we helped the bottom line.
  • This layoff isn’t your fault. This is a company decision and everyone in the city knows that this isn’t an individual performance issue. Everyone in town heard Nadella’s message so you won’t have to go into the details and explain it over and over.

We will be hired for our strengths but we will be declined for our weakness.

We need to learn to hide or disguise the following Microsoft stereotypes. What are the stereotypes of a tenured MSFT employee or any Large Box Employer? All large companies have their reputations and we need to be aware of and over come these in our communication with potential employers. Microsofties may be offended by the below, but I say this not to insult, but to provide insight on how hiring mangers look at the tech giant’s workforce.

  • If we were employed by only Microsoft for a number of years, the assumption is that we only know how to do things the Microsoft or the Acme Publishing way. It will be assumed by hiring managers that these will be hard habits to break. To break these assumptions, explain how you have kept current with new technologies outside of .NET and C. Inform the interviewers that you are comfortable with a MacBook, are not a slave to Outlook or use an iPhone. 
  • A lot of tenured Large Box employees have a “look”, specifically the employees who thought they were going to retire with said employer. Wardrobe and our presentation layer becomes less of a concern when we know we aren’t going to be dating anytime soon. This “look” is going to create our first impress so we need to overcome this stereotype.  We don’t need a whole new wardrobe. We just need to get through a couple of interviews. The Nordstrom half yearly is going on as we speak and there is a Banana Republic outlet mall right up I-90. If you wear glasses, make sure your frames are current. We want to create the image of an employee that has kept current in all aspects of life.
  • Large Box companies grew because they are successful.  World class companies more so. There is a subtle arrogance that comes across with candidate who has been with Number 1 all of their career and I get this. If the company has been reinforcing that we are winners for the past 10 years, there is going to be some pride of ownership that isn’t going to be readily shed. Practice humility in the interview. Be open minded to the new companies process, protocol and “way”.
  • Be visibly excited about the opportunity. If we present ourselves like Nadella just stole our puppy (and he did), the recruiter and hiring manager will see this.  They don’t want someone who is living in the past, they want to hire someone who can look forward to the next opportunity with a positive outlook.
  • MSFT has a reputation for throwing a lot of resources at projects. As candidates, we want to convey that we have experience rolling up our shirtsleeves and getting dirty.  We want to convey that we can complete projects with minimal resources.
  • Which leads me to my last stereotype.
  • Please don’t expect the same level of benefits. Candidates recently laid off from Large Box Employers are worried about benefits and I get this. We have families and need to provide.  MSFT is well known for having rich benefit plans and it is not uncommon for candidates to leave smaller employers for MSFT when they want to start a family. Most employers in town will not have the same benefit package as MSFT. We should avoid asking about the benefits package in the very first interview.
  • Work Life balance.  With any large company comes a stereotype that the employee force is there for the work-life balance and the 9-5 hours. I know that there are still plenty of MSFT employees that put in a lot of hours, but this stereotype has been forgotten. Pro actively explaining that we are looking for work life balance to take care of the family will only reinforce the message of coasting. I am not saying we shouldn’t find out the expected hours. I just wouldn’t bring this up in the very first interview.

Reading up on the culture of the new company and embracing its differences will go far in an interview to give confidence that you have not just moved on from the Microsoft layoff, but are excited for the next challenge. No one wants to hire someone that is living in the past.

Hopefully the above helped shed some insight,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Radio silence

Your radio silence is a sign, and the clock is ticking.

Radio Silence, candidates going dark

If you are interviewing with a company for a job, it is imperative that you respond to the recruiter in a timely manner throughout the entire process. 

As a person that is reaching out to candidates, I know that HR has a reputation for not returning phone calls, not updating candidates, and leaving the impression that that the company doesn’t give a crap about the candidate experience. I get that.

As a representative of the company, if I provide a bad candidate experience, I should not expect the candidate to be thrilled to be working with our company.  The candidate experience is an indication of what is behind the curtain just like bathrooms in a restaurant.  If the most visible place in a restaurant (the place we take care of No. 2) is not clean, what does the area we do not see (where the food is prepared) look like?

If our first experience as a candidate is poor, we can only draw the conclusion that the rest of the company experiences are going to be poor.       

As often as I hear the complaint that the HR house is dirty, you would be surprised how often I don’t hear back from a candidate. Below are a couple of examples of radio silence that will leave a bad impression with your hiring manager or recruiter.    

Although this happens with all demographics, it seems to happen with Millennia’s on a regular basis. I want to share it here because my theory is that this comes from a lack of experience when it comes to networking.  I doubt it is on purpose.

Radio Silence scenario 1.  Millennia’s

I receive an internal referral from an employee on a connection of theirs that happens to be a Millennial aged candidate.  I really appreciate internal referrals because the person making the referral knows what the company wants and most employees will not put their name on a candidate unless they believe they will be successful. I try to do a couple of things when reaching out to this referral. 

  • Let them know that the employee that referred them is a great employee and knows what success at Acme Publishing looks like.
  • Let them know that I have heard nothing but great things about the candidate.
  • Explain that we would love the opportunity to buy that person coffee and see if there is a fit.  If we don’t have a fit, maybe we know someone that does.
  • Leave 5 ways to contact me including personal cell, and how many lanterns means by land, and how many in interpreted to mean “by sea”.
  • Let the referring employee know that I reached out to their candidate. 

In other words, I am trying to take all of the guesswork out of this process for the referred candidate. Regardless of how intimidating my Darth Vadaresque presence is, they should have NO insecurities about reaching out. It surprises me how often it will take days and in some cases weeks for someone to just respond to my initial email.  Just as often, I don’t hear anything. Nada, zip, zero. When I do hear back, it is obviously at their convenience because there is always an “explanation” why it took so long. The presence of an explanation tells me they know they took too long to respond. 

Three quick thoughts:    

  • It boggles my mind
  • It makes the person that referred the candidate look bad. They vouched for the candidate and right out of the gate the reflection back is a lack of courtesy.   
  • It makes me wonder how timely they will respond to our customers if hired.

If a company reaches out to you because someone you know is recommending us as a candidate, we need to show some discipline and more importantly, show some courtesy and respond in a timely manner. Candidates that are slow to respond are rarely hired. 

Radio Silence scenario number 2: I make an offer and receive radio silence.

  • In the process of working with a candidate through an interview loop, usually at the very beginning of the cycle, candidates call back immediately. Communication is not only timely, communication is easy. With today’s technology, we can respond to a recruiter for from our phones, while in line at Starbucks!   
  • Early in the loop, candidates are literally anticipating my questions and answering everything they can in an effort to speed up the process. 

Radio Silence is usually an indication of cold feet:

  • The offer wasn’t strong enough in their mind, which is a pisser because we always try to agree the financial requirement needed to join the company. (If you gave me a range in your salary requirement, I heard the lower number).   
  • Your significant other got cold feet and like Mr. Freeze turned you to ice. 
  • Current employer gave you a counter offer. (Which is also a pisser because we review what the conversation is going to be like with the current employer when the notice is turned in and how to explain the move in a way that is usually foolproof)
  • The candidate is lazy. They got to the goal line, received the offer and now feel like there is no urgency. Until your butt is in the seat, there is urgency. This is generally an indication in the companies mind on how you are going to treat our customers so we will start to consider retracting the offer.    

As soon as we start receiving radio silence, mentally and emotionally, I have moved on. If I receive radio silence after I throw down an, I go into Club Mode. Think of your classic scene in a club where a guy asks a girl to dance. We have all seen this one play out. 

Our recruiter asks our candidate to the Big Dance. “Hey, you are so beautiful (qualified), you want to dance (you want a job)”?  If I get the silent treatment, if I am ignored, like anyone I will feel rejected and embarrassed so I come back hard.  “Well f#$% you then, you were ugly anyway”.  Moving forward, I don’t just get ugly, I get dirty-ugly. 

I can’t take a chance on the candidate dragging out the process and then NOT accepting the offer.  The hiring manager will look to HR for an explanation and I don’t want to look like the dumbass that couldn’t anticipate this scenario. The way I can lessen the damage to my reputation is by being pro active and reporting to the hiring manger:

“I haven’t heard back from the candidate we gave the offer to, so I have started looking at new candidates and just renewed the job posting.”

I gotta look out for number one here.  And just to be clear, I am number 1, the hiring manager is number 2, and the candidate is number 3. You have heard of women and children first? Step aside, child coming through. I am not going down because of an unknown commodity that didn’t have the courtesy or guts to simply say: “HRNasty, I am really interested in your company, but I think I am going to get a compelling offer from someone else. Can I have 2 extra days”?  Or “Nasty, hey, you had a compelling offer, but like I mentioned in the interview, I was also talking with Acme Printing.  They gave me an offer and I am going to go to Acme”.

If you want to string out the process, please do not think that I have forgotten about your offer or your buddy that put your name in the hat. If you are an internal referral or have received an offer, until I get some closure, you are all I am thinking and worrying about. 


See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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