How to Prepare for an Interview After Being Unemployed for 3 Years?

Updated on August 15, 2011
F.D. asks from Ridgefield, NJ
11 answers

I have a phone interview scheduled this week and I'm very nervous. I am trying to prepare, but feel like I don't remember enough of what I did at my last job and other jobs to provide concrete examples (if asked). See, my thing is that I tend to let my memories fade when I leave a job. And being a SAHM of two small children hasn't helped. I have so much on my mind! Can anyone give me some advice? What are some of the most common questions asked, especially if it's a behavioral interview? Thanks a lot.

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UPDATE: The job is for an Editorial Coordinator. Thanks.

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answers from Redding on

For one thing, make sure that you have your kids out of the house for the interview. Have a friend or neighbor...someone...take them about 2 hours prior so that you can have your thoughts in order.
You do NOT want to sound distracted, no TV or noise of any kind in the background. If you have a cat that gets on your lap when you're on the phone, toss it in the garage.
I suggest one night after the kids have gone to bed, you find a quiet place to yourself, even in the bathtub, and start going over the things you did at your previous jobs. Write them down.
Start with the job requirements for the new position.
How can you meet each of the requirements and be an asset?
Many interviewers ask "What was the best thing about your last job? What was your least favorite thing?"
"Have you ever had to deal with someone you didn't get along with at work? If so, how did you handle it?"
Two of my most hated questions are:
"What would you say is your biggest character flaw?" and
"Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"
The first question I answer with the fact that I am not good at separating work from home. I'm not one of those people who can just clock out and erase the day and not think about it again until I clock in in the morning. I'm always thinking of ways I can improve something or something I need to follow up on the next day. I've never been one that can easily turn my "work brain" off. I never stop thinking about what needs to be done.
It's the truth.
Where do I see myself in 5 years?
Happily employed and committed to a position that I can take pride in with an employer who values me equally.

I hate to say it, but some of the interview process is B.S. Meaning you need to be skilled in it.
Don't be deceptive, I don't mean that. If you're not geared up to give at least 100%, why even interview? But, you do have to sell yourself and your strengths. You have to give them a reason to choose YOU.
Like I said, take some quiet time. Write down what you did at your other jobs.
It's only been 3 years, you're too young for dementia. You can't say you don't remember.
Did you answer phones? Did you take messages? Did you edit monthly newsletters? Did you use the database? Did you schedule appointments? Did you process the mail or maintain correspondence? Did you order supplies every month or process the daily mail? Were you involved with HR or dispute resolution?
Take some quiet time and really think about your experiences.
Focus on your strengths.
Make sure you have no distractions before or during the interview.

Best wishes.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I work as a career transition coach, helping people in job searches.

I just did a quick Google and found this site:

There are some good tips for preparing here and a list of behavioral interview questions. Be sure to practice to keep all interview answers to a minute or less. An interviewer's attention wanders after about a minute, so keep stories concise.

They talk in the attached article about the STAR method. I teach the similar CAR method - Challenge (what was the problem or situation), Actions (what did you do), and Result (business result). When answering a behavioral question, following this structure helps keep your answer concise and reminds you to include the result, which is the most important part. Results should be business results - making money, saving money, reducing risk, or improving quality. Those are the things employers want you to recognize as important.

When being interviewed over the phone - smile when you talk! You will sound friendlier, more relaxed, and more confident when you are smiling. It works!

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answers from New York on

After a 2.5 hiatus from working, I had one of those interviews. Mine were over the phone because I work full-time from home. Everything went great until the guy asked me what I had been doing the last 2.5 years. I thought he would use his common sense...i was raising kids. Well, I said I decided to be home with my kids for a few years. Then he said: no, really, what were you doing? I said, looking for the perfect opportunity. He says: no really, what have you been doing for the past 2.5 years. I couldn't believe it. He knew I had been doing nothing but raisin kids. He didn't want to hear that. So, I said, we will go back and fourth for hours, but I am telling you, no job was good enough for me to start working again. Now, I think I found it, well, that depends on if you will move to the next question or not!!! I was pissed.
I got the job btw. :)
So be prepared for a question like that.
good luck

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answers from New York on

You've gotten great advice here. Reading Lola's response made me think maybe you need to be ready to "spin" your last three years. Have you been breastfeeding on the couch in front of soap operas for three years? (Gosh I loved TV when I was breast feeding but I digress) Of course not. you've been using your time management skills to schedule an appropriate mix of creative, physical, educational and restful activities for your children, cook healthy meals, help out your aging parents and ....and...,\
You've been budgeting to make one salary work for a family of ....
have you done any volunteer work at all? activities with your church or neighborhood? Do you know anyone in a similar career you could call and pick their brain before the interview? Good Luck!

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answers from Tulsa on

it would help to know the job so people could give you specific topics that might job your memory:-0)GOOD LUCK!

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answers from Albuquerque on

I do the same thing with my job memories... but I'll tell you from being a hiring manager for several years: you need to remember stuff! Or make it up (within the limits of what probably happened).

You may be asked things like: what did you like best about your last job, what did you like least, how did you deal with a difficult employee, how would you deal with too many deadlines at the same time, where do you see yourself in five years, why are you interested in this position.

Don't apologize for taking three years off - make it seem like this was your plan all along and now you're ready to come back to the job force. Convey that you are a desirable candidate! And really really really, don't talk about your kids. That's almost always a bad sign in an interview that the person has less job experience than they said in their resume.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I read this advice in the newspaper. Treat a phone interview as if you were being interviewed in person. Dress up, put on whatever makeup you would, wear dress shoes and sit in an upright chair. As you wouldn't have your children with you in an office interview, see if you can arrange for them to be elsewhere at the time of the phone call. Prior to the interview create a resume with bullet points of your work experience and what you accomplished on the job (programs, ideas, group work, etc). Try to create a list of people and numbers that the interviewer can contact for work and personnal references. When called, write down the person's name and use it in the interview. When you are asked a question, pause thoughtfully and speak clearly in full sentences, not paragraphs. If you have more to add to answer the question, you could ask, would you like to know more about that aspect of my experience? At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer and ask that he/she contact you again if any more information is needed. I wish you all the best.

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answers from Roanoke on

Congrats on the interview! Since you are thinking about it ahead of time, maybe you could make some notes about your last job? Think about what your responsibilities were, some tough situations or decisions you had to face, your relationship with your boss and co-workers..that will prepare you for some questions and refresh your memory.

Also, do research on the company you have the interview with. Have questions to ask will let them know A) you have done your research, B) you can develop a good rapport with them, and C) you are serious and interested in the job.

Good luck!

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answers from Miami on

F. Hi.
Congratulations first of all on taking this step.
You have received some amazing advice, so I will just add some thoughts:

1. Update your resume. The process of doing this will enable subconsciously for you to be more conversant in both your experiences as well as your gifts and talents. Have someone review your CV.

2. Make yourself some "talking points" on some of the good advice you received...That is -- 3 bullet points of information for every question....

3. Smile when you are on the phone. It comes through....

4. Practice with a friend.

Good Luck and Keep everyone posted.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Hi -- many university career services centers help alumni as well as current students -- try contacting the one at your college (or even look at their Web site) and there might be lots of good information.

Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on



You will be fine! Print out your resume - go over it one more will be surprised as to what you will remember...

Google the company you have the interview you know more information on them - CEO, etc.

I don't know what company asks BEHAVIORAL questions on a phone interview - those usually come later in the process - I don't know what you are interviewing for - that would help some...

Most phone screens/interviews are your voice, how you handle yourself over the phone - do you say ", you know, or some other slang that won't work in the professional world? Funny if you record yourself you will find some quirks that you don't even realize you are doing...

They may ask what your strengths are, weakness, what your goal is, why you were out of the work force, what brings you back into the work force, what are you expectations, what do you think you will add to the team or the company....there's tons of questions they can ask...

Keep your resume with you. Be confident. Be you!!


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