No one won or lost during the recession. Some succeeded in losing and landing jobs. Others were able to hold on to their jobs and managed to get promoted. But it doesn’t matter because if you’re able to breathe while reading this, you’ve won.
Again, you’ve won. Not barely, but with flying colors. Even when many employers didn’t make layoffs any easier, yet, they had tools to help them, help employees.
If you’re unemployed now matter the reason, you will be employed. This is the mantra you must carry, internalize, and believe.
There’s one interview question I think employers got together and decided to ask: What did you do while unemployed? So the interviewing will weigh your response along with the other responses.
It’s like, what did you do while waiting to get in the barber’s chair? So I would say dismiss the question, but employers’ are valuing and evaluating candidates on that question. So when they put a lot of weight on a question, you can’t avoid it.
You can find many good answers in many articles right now. I would consider reading this one and that one. I will add my own in my own way.
Some employers have an unemployment bias where they see the candidate with more than six months of unemployment negatively. However, others are more empathetic since the pandemic and give the candidate a lengthy unemployment period.
Practice, but don’t overdo it.
Most job seekers don’t practice, which has proven to be a critical piece of interviewing for remote work positions. Rehearsing and recording talking into a webcam or phone give you objective feedback where your attention is placed. Job seekers must be comfortable giving answers to a bot or software that’s not interactive. Similarly, it’s also easy to overthink answering each question. The temptation is to script it or rely on mental muscle memory. But rehearse what you will say. I promise the small difference it will make to practice is significant.
Top 3 tips for how to answer an interviewer’s questions about being unemployed:
Be direct and brief about your experience.
Video viewers have short attention spans. The attention-getter has been how you have remained sharp and positive during your time of unemployment. In your brief answer, you can say, “This was a meaningful period for me as I added to my skill set during this time. I’ve had many great conversations with industry writers and experts through Live streaming the conversation on Facebook.” It shows you are learning and providing your community resources for them.
Do many informational interviews.
Informational interviews are a 180-degree conversation where you seek intel to power up your career journey in an industry or company. Although it’s not the time to expect or ask for a job, the information attained could inform your thoughts or add to potential skills you’ll need to get in the company/job/industry. In the first tip, I used an example of someone making the most of their advice from others while simultaneously increasing the interviewee’s value. Although some people don’t want to do that, interview them and, most importantly, ask questions about their career path, how they choose their career, and who else would provide helpful information from their network. You can also share and introduce people you met.
Strive to get referred.
Surveys show referrals increase the opportunities for interviews and longer tenures at companies. Informational interviews can provide those opportunities as I’ve seen my past clients/students/participants use these conversations to get feedback, follow-up after talks, and the next person referred by the interviewee ends up being the referrer for an interview. For example, asking them, “Do you know anyone else I can talk to who can provide useful information.” The key is to make it easy for them to give you feedback and constructive direction (instructions or an action to help you further).
Become the perpetual learner who anyone would find approachable. You want to be easily teachable, receive and act on feedback, and be grateful someone took the time to help. You may lack skill and experience, and the perpetual learner attitude makes you more viable than someone more experienced and unapproachable.
I think it’s crucial now more than ever that job search is incorporated into your lifestyle rather than deploying your efforts when you’re unemployed.
Your job search as a lifestyle looks like this:
1) Interviewing when you have a secure job or at least once a year. The way you deliver interviews will change as it did in 2020 because of tech.
2) Professional development is each individual’s responsibility. Companies will only train you what you need for that job, but not necessarily for the industry. Therefore, you must control your career narrative by investing in the training for your future.
3) Know your market value with or without a job. Most people wait until they get an offer to discerning if the salary is their actual market value. Know and research arduously before starting your job search.
4) Every industry has an association or industry. Join and participate in them as they present many unadvertised opportunities. The more you’re exposed to exclusive opportunities, the more you’ll stand out.