You are not alone if you've been out of work for a chunk of time and are finally getting called for interviews. Interviewers fully understand that recent unemployment is due largely to the economic downturn. So in an interview, focus on explaining how relevant your skills are to the employer.
Selling Yourself After Being Out of Work
First, prepare thoroughly for the interview. Arrange a mock interview with a friend or family member. Read online material about how to appear engaged and topical in an interview setting, and practice answering common interview questions. Review relevant aspects of your former job or entire career so you have several fresh anecdotes and examples of how you dealt with challenging situations. Weave in recent examples to offset those that may seem dated; make sure to use up-to-date and field-specific terminology. Match your experience with the job you are applying for and do your best to approach each interview with a fresh perspective and positive energy.
If you were laid off, use that term—do not say you were “fired” even if it felt that way. If you did not leave on good terms or were unhappy at your previous employer, speak only positively, neutrally, or as little as possible about those involved. No one wants to hire someone who bad-mouths coworkers, bosses, or workplaces.
Focus on what you accomplished during your time away from the workforce, either as part of the job-hunting process or while volunteering or working part-time in a non-preferred field. Don’t discount the types of people situations you managed well—soft skills will almost always help sell you. Emphasize how ready you are to return to your chosen profession.
Regardless of the reason you were out of work, always convey enthusiasm for some aspect of the job (other than the salary or benefits). Do your research on the organization and the position so your excitement can be genuine.
Finally, recognize that interviewing can be time-consuming and challenging for the interviewer as well as for you. Nothing is more frustrating for an interviewer than to spend a whole day meeting people who are not the right fit. The interview panel wants you to be the person they’re seeking; help them see how true that is by discussing how your skills match what they’re looking for.
Materials created by Employee Relations staff.