You've been out of work for a while. Has it been difficult finding a job?

  | James Innes

You've been out of work for a while. Has it been difficult finding a job?

Alternative and related questions:

Why have you been out of work for so long?
Why were you out of work for so long between these two jobs?

The meaning behind the question:

If it’s been a while since you last worked then there could be many different reasons. The interviewer wants to know precisely what the reason is and what, if any, bearing it has on your application.

Your answer:

The most common reason for being out of work is, surprise, surprise, because you have been struggling to find work. But if you tell the interviewer this then it will immediately ring alarm bells. It may seem harsh, but if nobody else wants you then why should they?

You need to phrase yourself carefully so as to convey the impression that the reason you have been out of work is not because your services are not in demand but because you have, quite sensibly, been selective in your choice – and that this particular vacancy meets all your criteria.

Make it clear that you have been proactive in your job hunt but that the right job isn’t always available at the right time. You have consciously chosen not to leap into a new role simply in order to remain in employment.

You also need to be prepared for the interviewer to follow up by asking why you left your last job – assuming they haven’t asked already.

Besides difficulty in finding work, other reasons for being out of the workplace include undertaking further training/education, raising a child, caring for another dependant, travel and ill health.  

For further advice on how to handle these circumstances please take a look at Question 29, “Why is there a gap in your CV?” in the previous chapter, Chapter 3: 50 more classic questions: be prepared.


While it wouldn’t have been difficult for me to find a job, I will admit that it hasn’t been easy for me to find the right job. My career path is important to me and, given that I expect to remain in my next role for a fair few years, I have felt it sensible to take a few months to explore various opportunities and make sure I am selecting one which is right for me. I plan my career carefully and it is important to me that the next step meets with my long-term career goals. I have been very selective but this particular vacancy certainly meets all my criteria.

The Interview Question & Answer Book

The Interview Question and Answer Book

Take the fear out of your interview and never be stuck for the right answer to even the toughest questions with The Interview Question & Answer Book.

The job market is fierce, competition has never been greater and it's important that you can grab every opportunity for competitive advantage and stay one step ahead. Written by one of the world's leading careers experts and bestselling author of The Interview Book, this definitive guide to questions and answers encourages every job-hunter to think on your feet and express your individuality while supplying ideal responses to interview questions so that you’re seen as the ideal candidate for the job.


Order The Interview Question & Answer Book from Amazon

Have your career documents written by the professionals!
Order Now