How to Answer Interview Questions After a Long Period of Unemployment

Travis L. | May 25, 2017
Answering Interview Questions about Unemployment

If you've been out of work for a long period of time, explaining your unemployment can add a layer of difficulty during the job interview process. Potential employers may unfairly question your skill set before they even shake your hand. It's important to present yourself as confident, engaging, and prepared for the job as soon as you step foot into the room.

During an interview, your potential employer will most likely bring up the span of time where you were unemployed. However, there is no need to fret when that happens. After all, employers are people too, and should understand falling on tough times in this wavering U.S. job market. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that 7.1 million Americans are unemployed, with little change from earlier in the year.

Woman stressed about her job interview

When an Interviewer Asks Tough Questions Regarding Unemployment

When tough questions are asked, stay calm and give yourself a moment to consider your answer before responding. It's important to approach your interview with the right mindset. Come to the interview prepared and dressed for the part. 'Dress right, be engaging, and even if you've been unemployed for whatever length, it's not so much the experience but the personality, and the way you present yourself,' says a Target human resources representative.

Changes in the Industry

If the industry you are getting into is fast-paced, an employer may be concerned about you losing knowledge and practice while you were unemployed. Explain how you are passionate about the industry and have stayed up-to-date with all the changes.

Explaining What Led to Unemployment

When asked about prior work experience, this is your time to explain the factors that led to unemployment. Explain if the reason was a huge overhaul of employees due to bad business, issues within the company, or a mistake on your part. If your dismissal from the position had anything to do with your job performance, now is the time to be honest, explain what you learned, and how you have changed since that time. It's never wise to try to hide past mistakes with old jobs. Potential employers will find out any negative information when they check references, so it's best to be up front.

'We see if they have been employed and call their last place of employment to verify their work,' says Al, a Payless hiring manager. Al explains that Payless appreciates candidates being honest in the interview process and will typically give candidates another chance at employment.

Ability is Questioned

When your ability is questioned, you must prove that you are capable and prepared to have a job again.

Consider what you have done while unemployed and how you can shape it to explain how it has improved one of your skill set.s For example, if you have picked up a few odd jobs, tell the interviewer about them!

Share what you learned about yourself while unemployed. How did you handle the down time? Did you spend more time with your family? Did you volunteer? Did you help someone? consider how you can share this in your interview to present yourself in the best light.

Prepare Answers for These 5 Interview Questions about Unemployment

The more challenging questions help give employers a sense of who you are and your experience. The interviewer is trying to understand if you are in the position for the long haul, if you left on bad terms, and if you have been working while unemployed.

  1. What was the reason behind your job loss?
  2. What is your work history?
  3. What's your opinion of your previous employer?
  4. What have you done while unemployed?
  5. Have you stayed informed of the industry?

Questions to Ask the Interviewer about the Company

You should feel free to ask the interviewer some harder questions too. This shows your interest in the company and that you will take the job seriously.

  1. How long has this position been open?
  2. When do you plan on filling this position?
  3. What is the average longevity of employees staying with the company?
  4. Why did the previous person leave this position?

General Tips from Employers When Interviewing

While some jobs might not be as strict on appearance, rules, and behavior, you should always look the part and be engaged in the interview.

Al explains the importance of a first impression. 'Don't wear clothes that aren't suitable for a job interview. Don't come in your pajamas and expect to get a job.'

A Target representative agrees that looking the part is expected. 'Coming dressed in an appropriate manner is something that people aren't doing. They should make eye contact, smile, and engage in the conversation.'

Employers are also trying to make sure that you are the right fit, personality-wise, for the job position. 'It's not so much confidence; it depends more on the position and if their personalities match,' says a Target representative. 'If they have a hard time engaging with us, then they would have a hard time with our guests, and wouldn't be a good fit for cashier.'

Improve Your Mental Health to Consequently Help Job Search

While being unemployed can wreak havoc on self-confidence, it's vital to work on keeping your mental health intact. I know, easier said than done. I suggest choosing at least one of the three things below to incorporate into your daily routine and see how it improves your well-being.

Woman doing relaxing yoga

Exercise

Getting your heart rate up and taking your mind off the issue at hand can be very helpful. Break out in a sweat and release some happy endorphins.

Read a Book

Reading can be the perfect escape for a short while. Pick out an engrossing novel and give yourself permission to take a break when you begin to feel overwhelmed during your job application frenzy.

Talk with a Friend

There is nothing like laughter and human connection to put your mind at ease. Schedule a phone call or a midweek walk with one of your friends to break up the week.

For more career-related advice, check out our other career-advice posts.

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