Interview Tips for Unemployed Job Seekers

Woman at job interview
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Interviewing for jobs while you are unemployed can be a challenging task. You might have a lot of 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 really 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 pitfall of expressing disparaging remarks.

If you can stay positive and do your best to overcome the bias that many unemployed workers run into, you'll up your chances of getting a job offer.

Job Interview Strategies for Unemployed Job Seekers

Here are some tips to help you excel in interviews while you are unemployed:

Get your story straight. Get your story straight regarding your status, rehearse it, and be ready to convey it calmly and confidently. Make strong eye contact in order to deliver this message sincerely, but also use tact to 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, 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.

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 endeavor 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.

Ask contacts in your field who do consulting work if you can help with a project.

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.

Share your accomplishments. For each experience listed on your resume, be ready to share at least two accomplishments. Describe the situation or challenge, the 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.

It can be discouraging when you're out of work and you can't seem to get hired. Stay positive and consider each interview a new opportunity to do your best.

Demonstrate your work ethic. Show your work ethic by carrying out an effective follow-up. 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 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.