Nail the Interview

Conquering the Unemployment Gap: Ace Your Interview

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Long-term unemployment affects every aspect of your life. Your finances take a hit, as does your self-confidence. Your family life might suffer, and you might feel hopeless. When you get the phone call to come in for a job interview, your excitement might be dampened by the inevitable interview question: Why are you unemployed?

While newly unemployed individuals might be able to explain their brief hiatus from the workforce, long-term unemployment is more challenging to explain. However, that doesn’t mean that long-term unemployment will keep you from landing a new job. Knowing how to tackle this difficult question can quell any of your interviewer’s concerns and, instead, show that you are the right candidate for the position.

Interview Tips

While your interviewer will certainly want to know about your professional experience, he or she will likely also touch on your extended unemployment. Be prepared to answer questions about your current employment situation—preparation will make you less nervous and, subsequently, more confident. First, have a prepared answer to explain your unemployment status. You don’t want to stumble through your answer.

Long-term unemployment will keep you from landing a new job. Knowing how to tackle this difficult question can quell any of your interviewer’s concerns and, instead, show that you are the right candidate for the position.Click To Tweet

Don’t just blame the economy—talk about employment, or lack thereof, in your industry. If, for example, you are a university professor but state schools have instituted a hiring freeze, your ability to find a job has diminished. Note that despite the difficult climate in your industry, you have been actively seeking employment and making the most of this time. Your knowledge of the job climate shows that you have stayed abreast of industry changes during your unemployment.

Discussing Your Unemployment

When discussing your unemployment, your interviewer might ask why you left your last job. Again, a brief but direct answer is best. If you were laid off due to budget cuts or lack of work, say so. Mass layoffs are an unfortunate but all-too-common occurrence these days, so mentioning a layoff isn’t always indicative of subpar work performance. Do not blame your former employer; just state the facts and move on to the next question.

Unemployment does not mean that you spend all day sitting on the couch waiting for the phone to ring. Using this unexpected time off wisely can speak volumes about your potential to an interviewer. When discussing your unemployment during an interview, focus on the positive. Talk about how you have spent your time. If you are a teacher who volunteered as an after-school tutor, talk about how this experience has kept your teaching skills fresh. Any volunteer work will impress the interviewer, whether it relates to your industry or not.

Taking a class or earning certification in your field shows your interviewer that you made the most of your time off of work, so be sure to mention it. Discuss other ways you have challenged yourself during your unemployment, whether you taught yourself a new software program, joined a professional organization to network within your field, or attended a conference to stay up-to-date on industry news.

Focus on Your Value to the Organization

Finally,  . He or she might see you as a risk—after all, no one else has hired you. Rather than dwelling on your unemployment during the interview, use results-oriented language that discusses what you want to achieve as an employee. Focus on ways you can improve the organization. If you are interviewing for a sales job, for example, talk about your current contacts in the industry and how that can translate into increased sales.

Show yourself as an experienced employee who is eager to jump back into the workforce. Enthusiasm and industry knowledge can go a long way in convincing an interviewer that you are ready to work and, more importantly, that hiring you will benefit the organization.


Long-term unemployment can be disheartening, but it does not mean you will never work again. Tackling interviews with knowledge, energy, and professionalism can convince your interviewer that you are the right person for the job. Rather than dwelling on your long-term unemployment, showcase the skills and knowledge you have developed during your time away from the workforce.

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05/20/2024 12:21 pm GMT

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