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What to Say in a Job Interview When They Ask About Length of Time Unemployed

by Lisa McQuerrey

Finding a job is tough; being unemployed for a significant amount of time can make your job search even more difficult. Potential employers may look at your resume and wonder why it has been so long since you held a job. They may assume you're unqualified, overly picky or have been out of the workforce so long you've lost your edge. Allay this fear by developing effective responses to this interview question.

Be Honest

Your resume serves as a reflection of your employment history, and it isn't too hard to track down your last employer if a company decides to do some research. Don't be dishonest about your length of unemployment; rather, use your response as a way to spin your situation into a positive reflection of you. “While I haven’t been employed on a full-time basis for 12 months, I’ve been working as an independent consultant for the last year which has allowed me to stay current on industry trends and develop and maintain valuable contacts within the industry.”

Use the Economy Factor

In slow economic times, employers are more understanding about long periods of unemployment --especially true if a particular segment of the workforce is impacted more than others. While you don't want to use economic conditions as the sole reason for explaining long-term unemployment, you can certainly reference it as you explain your attempts to find work in your area of expertise. “I have been offered other employment opportunities, however I've given myself a full year to secure a position that allows me to utilize over 20 years of experience in this industry."

Reference Your Career Plan

Highly organized professionals often develop detailed career plans that help them to chart the course they want their professional lives to take. If you've been unemployed for some time but are following a predetermined plan, bring this up in an interview when asked about your length of unemployment. This approach demonstrates attention to detail, long-term strategizing abilities and dedication to your profession. “I'm very invested in my career, and while I understand the need for flexibility, I'm committed to staying the course while seeking a position in middle management that allows me to utilize my skills and abilities.”

Offer Reassurances

One of the main reasons hiring managers ask how long you’ve been unemployed is to be assured that you're a good candidate for the position. If you've been conducting an active job search and no one has offered you a job, it raises concerns. Address this by explaining your circumstances. “I'm being selective about the companies I interview with to ensure that I can be an committed, effective and contributing team member.”

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