By Nur Shakylla Nadhra
So you are sitting before the interviewer. The interview has been going fine so far – until he or she throws one particular question that stumps you: why have you been unemployed for so long?
Uh oh. What do you do or say now? Your heart starts beating rapidly, palms become sweaty and you are racking your brain for an answer.
The last thing you want to do is to shrug your shoulders nonchalantly and give an awkward smile. The truth is your interviewer probably has a not-so-positive view of the gaping unemployment period on your resume and links it to anything negative – perhaps a bad work ethnic or undesirable personality.
So how do you weave your way through this? Here are some tips to answer this dreaded question:
Hold yourself accountable
Don’t be defensive. The last thing you should say is, “What can I say man? Just look at the economy!” Employers will not be impressed if you play the helpless victim.
Instead, acknowledge that the economy has been difficult but always make it a point to emphasise that although the economy may be a factor, you are also on the lookout for a job that’s a good fit because you value the longevity of a job instead of just monetary benefits. Plus, add that you are hoping the position you are interviewing for may be the one.
Keep in touch with the industry
Industries change, trends come and go – staying abreast of what’s happening in the industry is important. It shows you haven’t been bumming around at home during this time. An extra bonus: tell the interviewer if you have taken up freelance jobs and extra courses, and skills during this unemployment period – this reflects well on your willingness to stay relevant.
So if you’re applying for a writing position, you can say “I have observed that writers or journalists nowadays have to be good at multitasking and performing tasks outside of their job scope, such as taking photographs or designing on Photoshop. So a writer would be of greater value to a company, especially a small-scale publication, now if he or she has design or photography skills. I’ve realised this and have been picking up basic Photoshop skills at a local design school, would you like to see some of my works?”
Show your value
During the interview, avoid dwelling on how long you have been unemployed. Instead, reinforce how your experience and skill sets are perfect for the job scope or demonstrate your desire to achieve.
Always make it a point to link back your strengths to how it can benefit the company. For example, if you are interviewing for a sales position, explain how your wide set of contacts can be an asset in helping to grow sales. Or you could highlight how your strong communication skills will help you to manage a team.
Being on the sidelines for some time may have put a dent in your confidence but don’t let it get you down. The company has called you up for a face-to-face interview because they see potential in your job application. So don’t lose heart, be confident and enthusiastic to show how ready you are to join the workforce again – those display your positivity and that’s a value that all employers like to see in potential employees.
What other tough questions have you encountered before in an interview? Share with us in the comment box!
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