5 Ways to Ace an Interview When You Haven't Worked in a While

lady job seeker

If you haven't been a member of the workforce for a few years, you're not alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 87.4 million people over 16 years of age in the U.S. did not work or look for work in 2014. Reasons for not working include retirement, illness, disability, school, and family responsibilities. People often take a break from working to care for small children or aging parents.

There are many reasons to rejoin the working world after taking time off. Stay-at-home parents may decide to work after their youngest child starts school. Retired people may want to work for intellectual stimulation or economic reasons. But how can you interview for a job and still make a positive impression when you have a huge gap in your resume?

reveal goals and job ambition

Here are 5 ways you can reveal your ambition and ace a job interview after an extended absence from the workforce:

1. Be Honest

Honesty is a sought-after trait in any potential employee. In simple terms, tell your interviewer why you weren't working. It may strengthen your candidacy to show that you weren't just slacking off or unable to find a job. Also, let your employer know briefly why you are choosing now to start working again. Be positive and express your genuine enthusiasm for re-entering paid employment. "Emphasize your skills and work ethic rather than your time away," suggests Monster.com. And don't get too personal--your interviewer isn't interested in your son's advanced math placement or the details of your mother's illness. 

honesty is the best policy during interviews

2. Be Prepared for Difficult Questions

how to answer difficult questions

Even candidates who have been working continuously get tripped up by interview questions. Be prepared to deflect attention away from your absence and onto the positive attributes you can bring to the company. Pre-write your answers to classic interview questions, such as, "What's your greatest weakness?" Many employers give situational interviews, with questions such as, "Tell me about a time when you faced a difficult decision and what steps you took to ensure that the correct decision was made." It's fine to use your experience caring for family members or attending school in this scenario, just make sure you're referencing a job experience in at least some of your answers.

 3. Show the Interviewer You've Done Your Homework

information exchange during interviews

Convey to the interviewer that you're not out of the loop when it comes to their business. Read as much information as you can about the company where you're interviewing and be ready to ask engaging questions. Keep abreast of trends through relevant trade journals, news articles, and even job descriptions or company blogs.  

4. Demonstrate How You're a Good Fit

puzzle piece - the perfect fit

According to themuse.com, the number one thing employers are looking for in a candidate is a good fit. Fit means different things to different people, but generally, your personality plays a large part in your fit at a given company. Show employers you have a positive attitude by smiling and exhibiting enthusiasm for the job. How you dress and present yourself can also convey to the interviewer that you're a good fit. In general, dress slightly better than you would be expected to dress for the job.

5. List Professional References

Your last paid employment might have been years ago. How are you going to list references who can vouch for you? Most people list former employers and colleagues as references. You can do this too, although it will help if you have at least one recent reference. If you've been in school, teachers and academic advisors are wonderful references.

recruitment and reference checks

Have you done any volunteer work? References could be someone you volunteered with, or a volunteer supervisor. If you've helped your child's teacher at school, ask him or her if you can list them as a reference. Some employers will accept friends or neighbors as character references as well. Ideally, you should have at least three professional references when meeting with a recruiter or attending a job interview -- preferably people who have supervised you.

Re-entering the job force after a lengthy break can be challenging. However, if you keep a good attitude and remain professional, recruiters and employers will see you as a valuable candidate.

For more information on how to land the right job, contact Brannon Professionals.