How to answer the interview question “What have you been doing since your last job?”
First of all, don’t panic. The reality is, if you’ve made it to the interview stage, the hiring manager isn’t overly concerned with the gap on your CV.
However, you may be emotionally triggered by the question. Don’t get defensive, have an answer ready and then move the focus to what you’re bringing to the table and how you can contribute to the success of the company.
Below are some guidelines that will help you answer this question in a positive, constructive manner.
If you’ve been made redundant, you may go through a lot of emotions and perhaps feel a loss of control or anger. It’s important to work through these negative feelings before commencing your job search as they’re picked up very quickly in an interview.
Employers will always look to appoint somebody with a positive attitude – somebody who will add energy to a team and look for creative solutions to problems, a person who will develop good relationships with clients and customers…..in essence a person who is passionate about their role cares about the future of the company.
If you find it challenging to be upbeat, consider interview coaching. The coach will identify any expressions or body language which aren’t serving you well and will work with you to present yourself in a positive manner.
Using your time to upskill
You can be honest and talk about how you took time out to decompress and travel. It can be good to start upskilling as you start to seriously approach your job search. Go to seminars, engage in CPD as this will get you back in the zone and give you points of interest to talk about in the interview. It will signpost to the hiring manager that you’re in the right headspace and ready to knuckle down again.
Accounting for your time when between jobs
If you’re looking to explain what you’ve done with your free time, you could talk about “pro-bono” work you took on. Multinationals and SMEs take Corporate Social Responsibility seriously so it can really add to your application.
Explaining that your job search has been very targeted can also buy you time. You might indicate that you have been selective in the types of roles and companies you’ve applied. You want to find the right cultural fit and to ensure your skill set closely fits the employer’s requirements. By doing this, you will reassure the interviewer that you have a specific interest in their role and would be committed to the company. You need to get the message across that you are interested in “this job”, and not just in any old job.
Contracting is a very popular option these days and is a great way to break the gap on your CV if you’ve been out of employment for a while. It’s a good way to get new skills or get exposure to a new sector. If you’ve been out of work a while, it’s a lovely way to ease your way back into the job market. A lot of interim roles can go permanent as employer can view them as a way to “try before you buy.” Contracting also offers another valuable benefit – it builds up your contact base. By impressing a company, they may be happy to recommend you to their network.
If there’s a gap in your CV, expect and prepare to be questioned about it. Taking time off between jobs is really commonplace these days so remember there’s no judgement behind the question. Keep your answer concise and bring the focus back to the job and why you’re the best fit for it.
About the Author
Laura McGrath is a qualified executive coach, EMCC Certified with over 20 years’ experience in executive search and recruitment. She’s the owner of Interview Techniques, a leading provider of interview and career coaching services and has been a guest lecturer with Trinity College Dublin and TU Dublin. She’s given master interview classes for the Institute of Certified Public Accountants. For a consultation, please call 087 669 1192 or go to https://interviewtechniques.ie/contact/