Explaining unemployment in a job interview
So you’ve been unemployed or have taken time out from work. What if you’re asked about it at the interview? Can you respond confidently and quash any concerns that the employer may have?
Some employers read into long gaps and think that there’s something wrong with a candidate – they don’t see it as simply time out.
If you want the job, you’ll need to make the interviewer feel comfortable about those gaps in your resume. Here’s how:
Think of it as an opportunity. It’s better to be asked than the interviewer make assumptions. There are all sorts of legitimate reasons to be off work for a period of time and this is your opportunity.
Come prepared. Have a succinct, but plausible answer prepared and practice it out loud until you sound relaxed and genuine.
Don’t blather on. Make sure you answer the questions succinctly and move right onto something more positive. A good answer can turn into “too much information” very quickly if you’re nervous and keep talking.
Keep it positive. Don’t think or say anything negative about your unemployment or your former employer. It never looks good.
Show that you’ve been productive. Have you attended industry events, or even volunteered to help organise them? Perhaps you’ve used your skills for charity work. Check out SEEK Volunteer for some ideas. Sign up for online or short courses in your career field and you can say you studied and legitimately call yourself a student.
Explain what you learned. We learn from every experience in life. Look for the positive and spell out informal learning from your time off. Did the break help you focus? Did you gain more skills or improve your network whilst unemployed?
Be prepared to explain voluntary unemployment. If you quit rather than being made redundant your interviewer will probably want to wonder why. Have an answer ready – such as taking a sabbatical to plan your future, or to deal with a family situation.