Interview with Confidence

by Rachel Vilsack

You’ve made it to the job interview! You are probably confident about your skills and how they relate to the employer’s job description. You’ve clearly presented your abilities well on a resume or job application because you got the interview. Now comes the most nerve-wracking part of the job search process –at least for me – the interview. Are you ready to answer the easy questions? What about the tough questions about your work history?


Practice Makes a More Prepared Job Seeker

Gain confidence in the interview process by practicing answers to common interview questions. If you have gaps in your work history, be prepared to explain why. If you were laid off, fired, quit your job, or just haven’t worked in a while, it is okay to tell the truth. But make sure your answer contains something positive.


Here are some sample questions and answers from Minnesota’s Creative Job Search guide:

Question: Why were you let go?


Answer: My skills are in _________ (name your field). My employer decided those skills were no longer needed. Therefore, I’ve taken some training and upgraded my skills to meet the qualifications for this type of job.


Answer: I was cut loose and that was a blessing because I got a chance to explore different opportunities like the one we’re talking about right now.

Question: It appears you haven’t worked in the past 5 (or 10) years. Why?


Answer: I’ve raised two children and managed my home. Doing that on a daily basis gave me a lot of skills we generally don’t acknowledge, like leadership, time management, teaching, coordination, planning, and so forth.


Answer: I needed to address some health issues. It would not have been fair to an employer if I took too much time off from work. I’m now ready to return to work and give you 100 percent.


Questions You Shouldn’t Answer

Employers are not legally allowed to ask questions about any physical impairments or disabilities that would prohibit you from performing the job during the interview process. Title I of the American Disabilities Act (ADA) lists additional topics that are prohibited, including:

  • Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, for what condition?
  • Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist? If so, for what condition?
  • Is there any health-related reason that you may not be able to perform the job for which you are applying?
  • How many days were you absent from work because of illness last year?
  • Are you taking any prescribed drugs?
  • Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?


If you’re asked one of these questions, it is best to deflect it. It is possible that the interviewer doesn’t realize the question they asked is not appropriate. Instead answer the question that you think they might be asking. Here’s an example:

Question: Is there any health-related reason that you may not be able to perform the job for which you are applying?


Answer: I understand the responsibilities of this position as stated in the job description. I believe I have the skills to perform the job.


Of course, there’s more to an interview than just the questions! Check out this list of interview tips.


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