Congratulations! You've received an email or phone call from a potential employer for a remote writing position. Whether it be a freelance gig or full-time work-from-home role, your hiring manager will have a few questions for you.
One of the first steps: walking through that résumé you submitted.
Indeed, the job is remote and (yes) there's been a global lockdown at some point. Many locations have faced astronomical unemployment highs and lows throughout the pandemic. Nonetheless, you will still be prompted to explain any gaps of employment in your work history as the recruiter combs through your résumé during the interview.
Just another panic-inducing interview moment, right?
It doesn't have to be.
While it’s never fun to talk about unemployment with a prospective employer, it’s simply one moment in your interview. And the best way to work out any anxiety or challenging questions is to anticipate it ahead of time and have a good answer prepared. This will prevent you from being caught off guard.
Why Hiring Managers Ask About Your Employment Gaps
Before you prep your answer, ask yourself why a remote hiring manager would care about your employment gaps. Think about the remote writing job and its functions. If you’ve got the right skills, education, and experience, the time you’ve been unemployed shouldn’t matter, right?
Well, maybe that’s true, but, in reality, the interviewer is wondering if you’ve got the right skills, education, and experience, why haven’t you found a job?
Based on surveys and recruiter polls facilitated, we've found that most hiring managers are highly concerned that there’s a hidden performance or personality issue that created your unemployment issues—rather than a global crisis or pandemic.
Additionally, our probing has unveiled other employer concerns about remote writing candidates. If your résumé demonstrates a recent gap in employment pre-pandemic, they are equally concerned about your relevant skill levels and up-to-date abilities for trending projects.
Are you freshly seasoned in your industry? Or, will the manager have to spend time training you to get caught up?
There may also be a concern that you are desperate and you’ll take any job you’re offered, only to leave when something better comes along.
How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Unemployment
The good news is that your resume was strong enough to land you the interview. How you handle the questions about employment gaps, though, may be the difference between a remote job offer and a rejection. Have a look at the following prime suggestions to build your interview confidence and boost your chances for that upcoming remote writing position.
Remain Direct and Stay Honest
It’s never a good idea to start any relationship with a lie, especially when talking to hiring manager about your employment gaps. Here are 5 strategies to help you remain transparent, professional, and confident.
1) Let the hiring manager know that you’re ready and excited to get to work.
2) Explain what started the unemployment (i.e. a sudden layoff, a planned break, an unexpected personal circumstance, being fired, or etc.).
3) Avoid going deep into the details. Remain very positive.
4) Highlight your passion as a writer, any relevant background, and experience.
5) Show acknowledgement about the competitive market that exists and emphasize the specific skills that set you apart from the rest.
Practice these five steps before the interview with a friend, mentor, in a mirror, audio recording, or any comfortable avenue that helps you nail the confidence and best response for this interview question.
You're Not Desperate—and They Need to Hear This
Of course, you really need this remote writing job and the competition is definitely high. The unemployment rate is a tragedy. However, you don't want to exude that type of energy (too much) during your interview.
Instead of saying, "I really need this job, but I'm also looking at other remote gigs", it would be most advantageous to say,
I don’t want to take any job that comes along. I’m only applying to jobs I’m truly interested in and where I think I would be a good fit.
And remember—rambling your words is another red flag during this question. So, practice your chosen response before the interview as many times as possible. This way, it will come out naturally when your time has come.
You Were Professionally Active During Times of Unemployment—Talk About It!
It’s important to demonstrate to remote hiring managers that you've been working on other professionally-related activities during your unemployment and not binge-watching your favorite shows all day. In addition to looking for work, you should be prepared to talk about the other activities you’ve been a part of. For example, discussing how you’ve been volunteering, taking classes, and/or attending professional events could all lead to constructive conversation.
Personal Accomplishments During Employment Gaps—Brag a Little!
What personal accomplishments have you achieved during your time off? Share this, too!
This can help remote hiring managers gain a better sense of who you are and how you set goals for yourself. Did you prepare for a marathon to stay healthy? Underscore your personal achievements. This shows that you’re proactive and not being dragged down by your unemployment.
Hiring Managers Seek Positive Remote Writers—Stay Positive
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your departure from your last job, never trash talk the past organization, your former boss, or the colleagues there. Even if your criticisms are warranted, they will reflect more negatively on you than anything.
Remain positive and send forth positive energy by smiling when you talk (as much as possible, without sounds/looking insincere).
PREP YOURSELF & SUCCEED!
Despite the unfortunate unemployment issues that have occurred worldwide in recent times, the odds are pretty good that if you have an employment gap on your resume, it’s going to come up in the interview—even as a remote writer. Sure, you can use clever résumé formats to help draw attention away from that employment gap on your CV, but most recruiters and hiring managers will certainly point it out during the interview.
With the right practice and confidence, you'll be able to provide a strong response that sets the foundation for the remainder of your interview.
Melanie is a freelancer, retro fashion enthusiast, old school video gamer, techie, cello teacher, and Contributing Author for RWJ.