Hold Your Tongue

Since being laid off in June 2002, I’ve had a handful of interviews. Hiring managers usually ask me what I’ve been doing since my last job. I give them a look like, “What do you think I’ve been doing? I’ve been looking for a job.” I don’t actually say that. I will say: “The current market is very competitive right now because of layoffs and downsizing.” It’s frustrating enough to be jobless, but it seems like employers count it against you if you are unemployed. What do you think?
–C. Coleman, Via the Internet

Employers don’t hold it against you. You’re doing that all by yourself. No prospective employer wants to hear a job candidate whine about the current employment market. They know how tough and competitive it is. Chances are they’ve had layoffs and are now looking for smart, energetic, and innovative new talent to function in downsized, restructured positions.

A hiring manager who asks what you’ve been doing wants to hear how enterprising you are. Have you been studying the trades? Have you been active in organizations connected to your profession? Have you gone on informational interviews to find out how newly-hired executives are marketing themselves? How have those experiences sharpened your expertise, and made you the best candidate for their company?

Don’t give them attitude. Give them a reason to want you. Nobody wants complaints. The winners in today’s desperate job market offer solutions. Check out 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions (Career Press; $11.99) and 101 Smart Questions to Ask on Your Interview (Career Press; $12.99), both by Ron Fry.