During these tough times a large number of people are re-entering the job market. Stay-at-home mothers going back to work, part-time workers looking for a full time position, people who took time out to get qualifications are finding that economic conditions are forcing them back into the job market. Time out of the workforce for a while can make one anxious about entering the job market again. The key element during your job interview is to emphasize the skills and experience you now bring to the position, what constructive steps you have taken to stay up-to-date during your absence and the new and valuable skills you have learned during this time that can be transferred to the workplace. Prepare for these interview questions about your re-entry into the workforce:
Your resume shows no work experience over the last few years. Can you tell me what you have been doing?
The interviewer is asking why you have not been working. It is important to be honest and straightforward about your reasons for deciding to take time out of the workplace.
For parents who have been at home raising kids this can be an frustrating question as you have most definitely been working! Use this as an opportunity to highlight the skills and behaviors you have learned during your time at home such as stress tolerance, planning, scheduling, time management and to confirm why you are ready and eager to return to employment.
If the reason is more complicated such as an illness or having to look after a sick relative you can still use the same approach. You may feel tempted to play upon your interviewer’s sympathies and discuss the difficulties you have experienced but it is far wiser to provide a straightforward explanation of your time off. Explain why you decided to leave your job after careful evaluation of the situation. Detail what you learned from the experience. Assure the interviewer that the reasons have now resolved themselves and you are eager to be back at work and focused on your career. Steer the conversation back to your skills and experience and communicate clearly what you are able to offer to the position and the company
The important thing to remember is that you do not have to defend your absence from the workforce, you only need to explain it. The employer wants to know and understand what your reasons were and why you are now looking to re-enter the job market. Address these concerns in a factual, non-defensive way and you can successfully move on to the next part of the job interview.
What did you gain during this time?
Remember that experience does not have to be paid to count as valuable and relevant. What new skills have you learned during your time away from the workforce? What steps did you take to keep current with industry news and happenings. Did you take any courses or programs?
In a confident and positive manner discuss your experiences and why they would make you a good employee. Refer to skills such as budgeting, planning and organizing, prioritizing that you learned while raising your family. These can all transfer to on-the-job skills. Doing community work or looking after a sick relative means learning to adjust to different demands and needs.
Be positive about how busy and active you have been, regardless of why you were not formally employed.
What makes you the right candidate for this position?
This is when you refer to your past employment history. Make sure that you highlight why this previous work experience is still relevant to the position you are interviewing for today and to the work environment you will be in. Focus on your own competencies, such as problem-solving, planning, organizing and communicating, that you bring to the position. Emphasize your maturity and adaptability, your re-commitment to your career and your willingness to work hard and learn quickly.
Re-entering the job market holds a number of challenges, but with perseverance and preparation they shouldn’t hold you back in your job interview. Use this opportunity to show them you’re the best person for the job.
For good advice and help with dealing with tough interview questions read through How to Answer Difficult Interview Questions. Prepare for typical interview questions using these guidelines and sample answers.
Julia Penny has many years experience interviewing and placing job candidates across a wide range of positions. She offers inside information to job seekers to help them prepare for and excel in their job interviews at her complete and free job interview guide.
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