If you’ve had a career break, it’s normal to feel nervous about your job interview. Most likely you’ll wonder if your skills are up to date, be anxious about how you’ll come across, and worry how you might measure up to other candidates who are not returning from a career break.
Yes, you need to understand the skills set required for the role and be clear as to what skills you have, or are a “work in progress”. But this is only a part of the picture. Actually, in the interview, even though they’ll be asking you about what you can do, they’re trying to work out who you are! They will be asking themselves – do I like this person?, can I see myself working with this person?, will this person fit into our team, our company, our culture?
So, your task in this interview is to be proactive about getting points across that reassure them about your fit. When they fall in love with who you are, they will more likely accept
job skills that need brushing up here and there. (And by the way, your career break speaks volumes about who you are – your strong family values, and your desire to focus on this for a period of time. Turn it into a positive!)
Here are 4 common questions you may come across in your interview. Many of these are “cultural fit” questions. Make sure you have prepared answers before you go in.
- Tell us about yourself? You need to be very clear about who you are and what you can give to this job. This is your chance to deliver your “elevator pitch” – a couple of sentences which encapsulate your experience, strengths, qualifications, and goals. This is critically important and if you find this hard to do on your own, get the assistance of a career coach!
- What are your strengths? Here they’re looking to see if your strengths match to how things are done in their organisation. They’re looking at the softer skills like teamwork, personal responsibility, perseverance. If you can’t verbalise your strengths, get some help. Some career coaches are accredited in work-based strengths tools.
- What are your weaknesses? Find something that has challenged you in the past but you’ve worked to overcome, for example, an ability to delegate. Be real and honest and show you can learn and change – all great characteristics of an employee!
- Why do you want to work here? Here you summarise how your skills suit the role, but also your cultural fit. You’ll need to have done your research on the company and industry beforehand and thought about how your values and mission align with theirs. (Of course, you’ll need to know your values and mission beforehand!)
Lastly, be sure to ask some questions of your own in the interview. This shows you’ve thought things through, have initiative and are serious. Examples could be: what’s the number one priority for the person who takes this job? what traits would the ideal candidate for this job possess? how would you describe the organisational culture? Remember, it’s just as important for you to also check they are the right fit for you! If you work somewhere where your values don’t align, you won’t feel right there – you’ll either not last or just hate your job. And life’s too short for that!
Are you lacking in self-knowledge?
If you aren’t confident about answering any of these questions, or finding examples from your work experience to support what you’re saying, then definitely get help from a career coach before you go in. Self-knowledge will help you get interviews for the right jobs in the first place. You can properly prepare for your interview and feel more confident when you are in there. This is your chance to shine and show the real you. They will love you!
FlexCoach Debra Close is a specialist in Positive Psychology Coaching for mums. Whether you’re looking to return to work, or are balancing a career with family, Debra can help you answer your career questions. She is certified with the Strengths Profile tool.
FlexCareers offers a free 30-minute introductory meeting with our FlexCoaches, to help you establish if coaching is right for you. You can contact Debra Close through FlexCareers here, and you can find out more about her practice, Flourishing Mothers, here.