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How to answer, ‘What have you been doing post redundancy?’

written by Kirsty Ferguson | July 15, 2021
The departure board at Canberra Airport (Victor Pody)

Australian Aviation columnist and interview mentor Kirsty Ferguson talks through how you can negotiate this tricky conversation when applying for your next job.

“What have you been doing since redundancy?” is one of many questions flight and cabin crew have been faced with as aviation jobs start to reopen and it feels really loaded.

But it isn’t.

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Nope, there is no hidden agenda with this question.

It is a great question to get to know you. So I want to take the fear out of – why airlines ask it and also, how you can approach it with confidence.

Airlines know redundancy wasn’t your fault.

Ninety per cent of people they will speak to for this role have been in the same situation as you.

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What you decided to do during this time is a great indicator of your attitude and crisis response process.

What you need to know:

  • HR teams, managers and hirers want you to succeed.
  • Like me, they are probably interested and inspired by how you have managed this time and what you decided to do.

Some of your stories of pivots, transitions, opening businesses and just getting stuck in to whatever role you could, have lifted and inspired me.

There is also no right or wrong in your answer, how you spent your ‘between career jobs’ time, is up to you. You don’t need to feel ‘on the back foot’ when faced with this question.

You do, however, need to remember that what you discuss with the HR team will divulge a lot about you. So… as you have heard me say for the last 20 years, be in charge of the information you present by making decisions now, before you get in front of the hiring team.

Whether you have:

  • Invested in irreplaceable time with family;
  • Thrown yourself into courses and further education or training;
  • Taken a role in a totally different industry; or
  • Followed one of your other passion projects, be it learning a musical instrument, volunteering at the local retirement home or recreating your backyard as mini nursery (all of which my clients have shared with me).

They are all valid decisions.

Here comes the Kirsty SOP… ‘Own it!’

There is zero need to justify your decision. Airlines ask this question to get a sense of who you are by the decisions you have made to get to this point.  Sitting in front of them… or on screen – in front of them.

They hire the whole person, not just your work skills. That is what makes your decisions during this weird post redundancy time interesting and valuable.

When I am interviewing, I am looking for:

  • Constructive use of time;
  • Enhanced personal development;
  • Thinking outside the box;
  • The ability to make decisions in unusual situations;
  • What you have learnt about yourself;
  • Additional skills you have picked up;
  • Maybe what you did is really unique to you, that makes you memorable.

During your airline interview, all of this helps develop a fully rounded picture of you as a potential colleague. Your job is to pull this content, these examples and these pieces of evidence together pre-interview, so that you can make the most of this expected question.

Many of you have worked with my team and me in the past. You may remember a lot of ‘Kirsty SOP’s’ once of which was asking you to stick to the most relevant answers and experience for the interview you are in.  In aviation that would be… aviation and airlines, your career and your training. Now those areas still remain the most relevant – and here comes the ‘however’. However… the world of hiring and recruitment has had to pivot with the unusual situation we have all faced during the pandemic. The recruitment and careers arena, by which I mean the ‘Hirers’ have renewed the importance placed on human skills. This is one of the positives to come out of this period.

The value of your attitude, not just your aptitude, is a more significant hiring factor now and one I welcome. So while your answers still have to be factual and evidential and relevant, part of that includes a higher focus on the ‘human’.

What better place to find our ‘human skills’ than what we have faced during this pandemic.

Kirsty Ferguson is a business writer and interview coach, whose columns appear every month in the Australian Aviation print magazine. Email Kirsty at [email protected] or visit this page to book a mentor session with her personally. 

Kirsty also appeared as a guest on our Sky’s The Limit podcast, which you can listen to here

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