Interview Tips for Unemployed Job Seekers
Interviewing for jobs while you are unemployed can be a challenging task. Job interviews can be difficult, even in the best of circumstances. It’s even harder when you’re out of work, and you need to discuss the situation with a prospective employer. You might (understandably) have negative feelings about your circumstances, which make it difficult to be upbeat, confident, and energetic during interviews.
Keeping up a good attitude throughout the job search process may be hard, but it’s also important. Employers won’t be eager to hire someone who seems low energy, defeated, or bitter. No matter how you feel about your ex-supervisor or employer, you will need to avoid the pitfalls of complaining about them or the job you used to have.
If you can stay positive, you’ll up your chances of getting a job offer. On the staying positive note, it’s important to remember that it’s not just you. There are many other people in the same circumstances, and hiring managers are understanding, especially when you’ve lost your job through no fault of your own. Getting fired happens more frequently than you might think, too, so don’t presume it will disqualify you from getting hired.
Job Interview Tips for Unemployed Job Seekers
Here are some tips to help you excel in interviews while you are unemployed:
Prepare to ace the interview. Whether you’re unemployed or currently working, it’s important to take the time to get ready to interview. Learn as much as you can about the employer and the role, practice answering interview questions, check to see if you have connections at the company who can advise you, and be sure your technology is in working order. If you need resources to be able to interview, your public library may be able to assist with computer access.
Tip: These free interview practice tools will help you ace the interview.
Get your story straight. Know what you’re going to say and have an explanation ready to share with the interviewer. Get your story straight regarding your status, rehearse it, and be ready to convey it calmly, clearly, and confidently. Make eye contact so you can deliver this message sincerely, but also make sure you are not staring at the interviewer.
Explain the circumstances. If you were laid off due to a financial retrenchment, a merger, or other factors outside your control, take some time to explain these circumstances. It’s a good idea to provide concrete evidence of your achievements, such as raises, promotions, and other recognition, so your interviewer doesn’t have any doubts about your performance abilities.
Focus on moving forward. If you were let go for performance reasons, briefly explain how any skill deficits leading to your problems differ from the requirements for your target job. Mention any training, coursework, seminars, or other steps you have taken to upgrade your skills. Then discuss how your skillset qualifies you for the job for which you’re interviewing.
Share your accomplishments. For each experience listed on your resume, be ready to share at least two accomplishments. Describe the situation or challenge, actions that you took, and any results which you generated. Emphasize the skills and qualities you drew upon to achieve those results.
Share work samples. Collect samples of your projects to demonstrate how you’ve done excellent work in the past. Have your portfolio available and ready to share via a personal website or on LinkedIn.
Show why you are a match for the job. Spend some time reviewing the job description or application requirements for the job you’re applying for. Make a list of the requirements, and match one or two of your own skills with each one. Have this information ready to include in your cover letter or discuss during the interview.
Have recommendations ready. Be proactive and share positive recommendations to counter any doubts that your recruiter might have. Collect references from prior supervisors, co-workers, subordinates, clients, suppliers, and fellow members of professional associations. Review this advice on how to get the best references to get your list started.
Fill in the gaps. If you have been out of work for a while, consider part-time, freelance, or volunteer work to show that you are still active and motivated. Having some productive endeavors as part of your daily mix can also lift your spirits. If the work is in your field, it can establish some professional continuity or create valuable connections. For example, ask contacts in your field who do consulting work if you can help with a project. Or consider volunteering as a way to learn new skills.
Try to stay positive. It can be discouraging when you’re out of work and can’t seem to get hired. Consider each interview as a new opportunity and do your best to stay upbeat.
Don’t show your desperation. You may feel like you need any job, regardless of what it is and what you’ll do. Don’t let the employer know how desperate you are to get hired. Keep it professional and focus on your skills and qualifications rather than how much you need a paycheck.
Demonstrate your interest. Don’t wait to hear back from the company. Send an email thank-you note as soon as possible after your interview. Let the employer know that you are highly interested in working with them without seeming desperate, and briefly explain the reasons why you think the job is an excellent fit.
Send individual thank you notes. If you had multiple interviews for the same company, make your thank-you letters personal. In your email to each interviewer, send a slightly different message referencing what each individual said. Point to portfolio samples or recommendations that would counter any doubts interviewers expressed about your qualifications.