By Phil Baker,
When you have a non-linear timeline of employment history, job interview questions focusing on the gaps can be uncomfortable. Even if your time away from work was an informed personal decision, you might feel like a judgmental eye is prying into your life with a harsh, antagonistic query. If you weren’t working, what were you doing? If your time off was spent looking for work, instead of concentrating on that activity focus on other activities you were involved with or performed that demonstrated work related skills.
No matter what you were doing, the key with addressing gaps in work history is to keep the focus on your potential and the things you are going to do for the company going forward. Keeping this as your guiding mantra, here are some tips for reframing the dialogue and remaining calm when answering job interview questions about your work history.
Focus on your achievements. Maybe you didn’t win employee of the year award last year. You were busy coordinating care for your ailing parent or grandparent, shepherded a herd of children under the age of 10 to and from weekly activities, or volunteered five hours a week at the homeless shelter in Nicaragua while writing your novel. Whether you were hiking off grid in the mountains, caring for family, getting out of jail, or retraining after a lay-off, paint yourself as a motivated and productive citizen of the world.
Link your activities to the skills required. Prior to the interview, carefully review the position description. What is really needed to succeed at this job? Knowledge? Experience? For each attribute, develop a link between your life skills and the skills needed to be a star performer in the target role. Create statements about your time off activities that exhibit the use of skills pertinent to the position you are seeking.
Example One: Organizational Skills
I took a year off with my children and organized their daily activities and maintained a busy schedule of weekly appointments, and school and extracurricular activities.
Example Two: Analytical Skill and Management Skills
I gathered real estate data and purchased a home then planned property rehab, compared bids, selected contractors, and supervised the project through completion under budget.
Example Three: Communication Skills
I recruited local homeowners for neighborhood watch and relayed crime statistics and volunteer participation schedules at monthly meetings.
Use your time off as a strength. Show that you understand the role when you answer the job interview questions and offer examples of fresh perspectives. Paint yourself as a breath of fresh air and potential that would be a pleasant addition to the team. While other team members may be worn down by years in the trenches, you are rested, energized, and ready to contribute productively to the bottom line.
If you have the qualifications for a position there is one major attribute that can tip the scales over in your favor. That is your attitude. A curious, loyal, cheerful, optimistic attitude is often appreciated more by employers than all skills combined.
Get the answers to interview questions that get you the job offer. Copyright 2011 by Phil Baker -“The Hire Authority”
Phil Baker is the creator of the OneClick Cover Letter Creator Software Program (a ridiculous easy to use, yet effective software that creates cover letters tailored to your needs) which you can visit here, or you can read my review of it here, but he also has a tremendous website, www.ResumeDictionary.com. Resume Dictionary might just be flat-out the best, free resume resource site out there.
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