What do you do when the last job on your resume ended a year ago? What do you do when you are applying for a job and the interviewer asks, "What have you been doing most recently?" and all you can think of is, "I have been looking for a job." Unfortunately, in this market, this is a regular occurrence in interviews.
If you are embarrassed or feel awkward because there is a huge gap in your resume from your last role…don't be. You are not alone, in fact, you have a lot of company. Where you can stand out in the crowd is how you answer the dreaded question, "What have you been doing lately?"
Some of you have been working part time doing retail, some of you have been doing contract work, some of you went to work for a friend and helped to start something, some of you have played a lot of video games – however, one thing remains constant: all of you have been out of work and have to answer to that. My point in bringing this up in a blog is to put it in front of you so you will begin to think about your answer. If you have not prepared an answer to this question, you are at a complete disadvantage – it is just as important as preparing an answer to "What are your strengths?"
The unemployment rate is dancing around 10%, again you are not alone but it does not mean that you are not going to be held accountable for your present status. You must first take responsibility for being unemployed, let's face it – it is not ideal. But you must quickly answer the question and tell your interviewer what you have been doing. Get creative but do not lie. If you made repairs to your house, talk about that. If you volunteered at the animal shelter, talk about that. If you spent the summer on the beach and the winter on the slopes, talk about your soul searching and identifying the right role for you.
My point is, don't shy away from it – there is no hiding from it. Take accountability and tell them what you have been doing – whether that was staying busy, working to put food on the table, or just bumming around trying to figure out your next move, you need to strategize and formulate an answer that is well thought out and articulate.
This should not be a detailed answer and you do not have to account for everyday that you were unemployed – it is a broad stroke question and calls for a broad stroke answer. That is why you need to put thought to it now and not later. If you are caught off guard by it – you will ramble and your answer will leave you out in the cold.
So, here are the guidelines to formulating your answer:
- Take accountability
- Be Honest
- Do Over Compensate with Details
Once you are comfortable with your positioning, practice it with peers and see what their response is. If they are skeptical, you are probably not on the right path. If they are accepting, then you are probably coming across as genuine and that is what you want. Get by this question and then you can get on to the meatier part of the interview…positioning your actual experience.