It’s difficult to believe that employers are still asking this type of question. Don’t they read the newspapers or listen to the news? If they were informed, they would know the answer; i.e. jobs are very scarce and difficult to find these days, and unemployment is still high, despite improvements in the economic picture.
So, what is the correct answer to give an interviewer when you’re asked such a question?
There is no “correct” answer. However, a technique that works well is to take the focus off the length of your job search and to place it on what you have to offer.
If you look at it from the employer’s side, you can see a different perspective. It’s a “hiring” market, and employers are receiving so many resumes that they have their choice of among many very qualified candidates. When interviewers ask a question regarding the length of your unemployment, one of their concerns may be that you are undesirable or flawed – (If no one else wanted to hire you, why would they want to hire you?)
Your task, as the candidate, is to convince them that you have valuable skills and to be able to sell yourself as the solution to their problem. Using the examples below, which of these sample answers would impress you most if you were the interviewer?
Q. “Why have you been out of work so long?”
A#1. I knew the job market was tight, and I didn’t run out and try to get just any job. I took my time thinking about finding the “right” job. I know your job would be a very good fit for my skills and background.
A#2. It’s a really tight job market out there, and it just hasn’t been easy to get interviews. My skills just didn’t seem to be in demand, and the competition is really tough.
A#3. I’m really not sure. I have an excellent background with five years experience in this industry, and I have knowledge of several software programs. I know there are other people out there with similar skills. What sets me apart from the masses are my abilities to relate and to work with a wide diversity of customers. Having the unique combination of technical skills and people skills has helped me advance in the companies I’ve worked for in the past.
If you selected A#3 as the strongest answer, you are correct. This answer offers more information about what you could bring to the organization and takes the focus off why it has taken you so long to find a job. You don’t dodge the question; you just change the focus. A key phrase in this answer is “set me apart from the masses.” It is important to point out what makes you unique, and what you have to offer that others do not.