In this economy, with so many individuals out of work, it is extremely difficult to secure an interview. Consequently, it is imperative to make the most of this opportunity. There are five critical questions that one should prepare to answer in full detail.
Why are you out of work?
This may be the most important question a candidate will be forced to answer. Often times a company may have gone out of business, or there was a layoff. If that is the case, the more data an individual can provide the better. How many folks were laid off? Was it the entire department? If not, in what round were you let go? Make sure you are not defensive when answering — rather, compose clear and concise answers in advance. There is more flexibility among employers at present when there is a large gap in the work history. However, if there are several gaps it will likely be problematic.
What have you been doing while you are unemployed?
The best candidates have specific answers to this question. Some have been taking classes to grow their abilities to remain competitive and keep their skills sharp. Others have been actively looking. Be prepared to answer questions concerning what other companies you have applied to and why. Do not use vague answers like, “I don’t know, I have just sent it everywhere.” This shows a lack of genuine interest and commitment. Further, maintain a comprehensive list where you have interviewed and for what role(s). This will help you follow-up later.
What will your references say about you?
This is an excellent opportunity to express the skills you possess that may not appear on your resume, along with some insight into your work ethic and level of commitment on the job. Perhaps you were in charge of a critical project and that supervisor can speak to your level of success? Remember, make sure your former employers and direct supervisors listed anticipate the call and will convey the same data you stated. If there are any inconsistencies or hesitation, it is a red flag to potential employers.
What are your goals?
It is best to be specific and honest. If your resume demonstrates a background in teaching, but you are applying for a role in management, be ready to explain why you are looking to change fields and discuss the skills and experience you learned in your former role that will contribute to your success in a new position. Have you taken any classes that would augment that ability? It is critical to sell them on the reasons why you are making a change and not just looking for any job. The reply, “I’ll take anything right now,” makes an employer nervous that you may leave the job for any better opportunities that may come along.
What questions do you have for us?
It is important to have intelligent questions prepared in advance to ask a potential new employer. It demonstrates some knowledge of their organization and that you did your research prior to the interview. Ask about expectations for the role you are applying for, as well as the company culture. Further, it is important to ask about their projections and goals for the future. This will help you make an informed opinion in the event you are chosen.
Be advised, potential employers remember candidates that have interviewed well. They don’t like to lose top notch, talented candidates to other organizations. Thus, even if you aren’t the best fit for their current needs, it may be quite likely you are considered first for other opportunities!
This post originally appeared in the Job Advice column on Syracuse.com