Have I Been out of Work for Too Long?

Q. I have been looking for a job for six months. I’m concerned I’ll be considered as being out of work for too long. Toward the end of a recent interview, I was asked what I have been doing. I talked about my job search and keeping current in my field, but I’m not happy with how I answered the question. What should I have said?

A. Every job search takes time. No one ever thinks landing a job will take as long as it does and even organizations can’t believe how long it takes them to fill positions. In every job search, candidates are encouraged to be responsible for what they can do and everything they can influence. This is not the time to sit back and wait for people to Email you, call you or find you on LinkedIn.

How you approach your job search is of interest to most hiring managers and recruiters. They need to see a positive person with high energy and an optimistic outlook; however, you may not always feel that way. A long job search can negatively impact all of these attributes, but you need to make sure to give one hundred percent in all networking meetings and interviews.

What have you been doing? This is an open ended question that can shed light on many aspects of who you are. Your answer might reveal a bitter disappointed job seeker who communicates, ”I have been looking for a job! What do you think I have been doing? Don’t you read the papers? The economy is bad and all that stands between me and work is you asking me questions about what have I been doing!”

While this may feel good (in your mind), a better approach is, “I have really been focused on my job search. I have met some great people in many industries and had the opportunity to learn about different types of companies. I am catching up on my professional reading. You know the stack of books and articles you have waiting for when you have time? Well, I have really focused on a few areas I have had an interest in, and am enjoying this new information.“


Great answers are a start, but this professional self isn’t enough. The difference between a good interview and a great interview is the added dimension you can share about why you would be a great colleague. For example one might say, ”I’ve also taken this time to coach my son’s little league team. It’s been a wonderful experience for us both. I wanted to maximize this time and I am using it well. After I land my new role, I’ll re purpose that energy to my new job.”

These are just examples of how to develop relationships that move you beyond a talking resume. If you were the one hiring, who would you choose?

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