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Interview Questions (and Answers) After an Extended Leave

Show that you have kept your skill set up to date

Interview Questions (and Answers)  After an Extended Leave

By the Monster Career Coach

Do you find yourself looking for a job after months, or even a year or two, out of the full-time workforce? Maybe you took time off for parental leave, either as a mom or a dad. Could be that you looked after an ageing parent or went back to school.

Returning to the permanent workforce is certainly possible. However employers will want to understand the reason for your absence and whether you have kept up your skills and knowledge during your time away.

Below you will find some of the typical questions an employer might ask a job seeker who has been on an extended leave. A few potential responses for each query are listed in bullet-point style. See which answers best apply to you personally. If you choose to use one or more of the suggested replies, be sure to customize them to your own specific situation, and stick to the truth.

Easier Questions

Question 1: Why did you take so much time off from work?

Possible Answers:

I chose to temporarily remove myself from a full-time job in order to…

  • Take care of my newborn (or young) child
  • Help my ageing parent, ill family member or friend
  • Go back to school; upgrade my skills; travel and learn about the world
  • Work part-time while doing something else
…during which time I had every intention of returning to work full-time, which is why I am here interviewing with you today.

Question 2: What have you been doing during this time to make sure you’re still employable?

Possible Answers:

I have been…

  • networking with people in my field to stay informed
  • taking a relevant course to upgrade my skills and knowledge
  • doing volunteer work that applies to my role
  • reading appropriate trade publications, attending conferences
…while keeping my eye out for precisely the kind of job that you are hiring for here.

Harder Questions

Question 1: Are you willing to accept a lesser salary or position level to start with, being that you might be kind of rusty?

Possible Answers:

  • I believe that I am more than capable of doing an excellent job in a similar position to the one that I moved on from
  • While I believe that I am more than capable of doing an excellent job in a similar position to the one that I moved on from, I would be willing to consider other options at this time, with the goal of proving myself and moving upward again

Question 2: Why should I choose you rather than someone who is currently employed or has only been out of work a short time?

Possible Answers:

  • As you can see by what I have been doing during this past while, I’ve been keeping up with practices in my field, also I believe that I have demonstrated a strong sense of values (or commitment, loyalty, self-improvement) by my actions in this period
  • I am willing to work harder and longer than the average applicant because I realize that I must reprove myself to you, and I will not disappoint you

Emphasize The Good Stuff

The employers you interview with may be concerned that you might leave again for another extended hiatus. Or they may be biased toward applicants who have not been out of the full-time workforce for very long. Your challenge is to reassure interviewers that your skills and knowledge are current; that whatever caused you to take time off is over and done with, so that you can re-focus now on your job; and that you will be a loyal, committed employee they can rely on.

If you can address each of these concerns honestly and convincingly, and if you are willing to be a little flexible in terms of starting salary or title, then you’ve gone a long way to positioning yourself as a desirable candidate.