The only permanent thing in the world is change. You graduate from school, get the job, enjoy it for some time, decide to change it, get another one, things do not work out, they fire you, you look for a next one, sending applications, interviewing, trying your luck, not having success in the pandemic, struggling, interviewing another time… Each job seeker has their own story, and it is not the business of the hiring managers to learn the details of yours. Simply because it makes no difference for them really whether you’ve been looking for a job for a week, or for a year. Or does it make a difference?
Whether it makes sense or not does not matter at the end of the day. You may get this question in any interview, and especially if there’s an employment gap on your resume, or your last employment dates back a year or more. Hence it is important to prepare for it. Let’s start with 7 sample answers to the question. I tried to include answers for a variety of scenarios (long unemployment, fresh from college, running own business and closing down during pandemic, etc) in my selection, and I hope you will find at least one that resonates with the message you want to convey in your interview. Do not forget to read also my notes below the list of answers–to make sure you won’t make one of the mistakes many job seekers do make.
7 sample answers to “How long have you been looking for a job?” interview question
- I’ve been looking for one for about a month and a half. Not that I could not get it earlier, but I am quite picky in my selection, because I am no job hopper. I did not apply for many offers during the first two weeks, simply because I did not find any good matches to my abilities, preferences, and career goals. Finally I handpicked three fitting offers, jobs I can imagine having for years (or progressing withing the company), and one of them is your offer.
- I know that looking at my resume, you may get an impression that I’ve been looking for a job for over a year now. But it is not the case. I’ve experienced a complete burnout in my last occupation, and after finally deciding to leave the corporation–a decisions I should have done much earlier, I just didn’t feel like working. Had some savings, took an extensive break, thought about my career and life, and just then I started to look for a new job. Happy to be interviewing here with you today, because this is exactly the type of a job I’d love to have.
- I’ve been looking for it for about six months, and I think the pandemic is the main reason. Many small business had to close down–and I was one of them, and suddenly interviews became incredibly competitive. I found it hard to believe that for a simple job in a call center, over 150 people applied–the hiring manager shared the data with me when I asked. Hence I had to lower my criteria, because at the end of the day I have a family and bills to pay, and cannot be without a job any longer. I am glad that you gave me a chance and invited me for an interview, and sincerely hope that my job search will end today.
- Speaking honestly, I haven’t been actively looking for a new job. I was quite happy with my current position. Sure enough, I feel I am stagnating a bit, and there’s no room for growth, but the salary is great, and my colleagues are nice, and I enjoy my days at work. However, when I, by a chance, came across your offer, I changed my mind and decided to submit my application. Because reading the job description I quickly realized that this is exactly what I want to do. I would not forgive myself if I simply skipped this chance. I know it isn’t guaranteed that you will hire me. It is a great offer and certainly many people applied. But I am still happy that I applied, and can meet you today, and let’s see how this meeting develops.
- I’ve been looking for a job for about four months. And the reason is simple–I struggle in the interviews. Have a decent resume, good education, everything. But I just remain silent too often when they ask me some tricky behavioral question, because I am nervous and cannot gather my thoughts in the important moment. Needless to say, it is hard to succeed in an interview when you answer three or four questions with silence. As you can see, however, I did not give up. Every interview is a learning experience–including the one with you, though I really hope I will get over my nerves this time, and my job search will finally come to an end.
- I prefer not to share the information with you. Do not take me wrong though. I do not try to hide anything, just I believe you may get a false impression, and make wrong conclusions if I told you. Let’s focus on the present. I am here today, eager to answer all your questions that have something to do with my professional competence, motivation, and attitude to various situations that happen in the workplace. At the end of day, how long I’ve been looking for a job really doesn’t have any effect on my readiness for the role I try to get with you.
- Less than a day actually. I saw your offer, decided to give you a call, you invited me for an interview, and here I am. I am no time waster. No reason having unrealistic expectations when I just graduated from high school, and have no previous working experience. I will accept any job for a start, and I want to start as soon as possible.
Every question is an opportunity to praise their company
Doesn’t matter if you’ve been looking for a job for a day, or for a year. You can always elaborate on your answer, explaining that you’ve been waiting for their offer, for a job that really fits your skills, expectations, and personality. What is more, you can briefly praise their company culture, remuneration packages, their product portfolio, or anything else.
Turn their focus to something else. Maybe you’ve been unemployed for a long time, and maybe it doesn’t look too good on your resume. But you do not have to dwell on it, and the same is true for the hiring managers. Talk about other things–how happy you were when you finally found their offer, how great their company is in your eyes, etc. If you do that, they can quickly forget about your long employment gap or some other issue on your resume.
There’s no wrong answer, just a wrong explanation
Honestly, there isn’t any wrong answer to this question, as long as you explain why you’ve been looking for a job for a long time (or for a short one). Each job seeker is different, each person has their own story, and it is nothing they can blame you for.
The most important thing is to be optimistic, and to explain why you’ve been looking for a job for a long time (if that’s the case). It can be anything from needing a break (after a burnout, to recharge your batteries), changing a career and working on your education before searching a job, to simply being unlucky and not getting many invitations for the interview, or struggling with nerves, and bombing one interview after another.
Most hiring managers will appreciate your honesty, and a willingness to speak openly about the problems you faced (or are still facing) in your life, while finally trying to get the job. Having said that, you should not sound desperate. Things did not go your way lately, but you keep trying, and for sure you will succeed and get the job soon.
Refusing to answer should be your last option–but it can sometimes work
As I said at the very beginning of this article, your answer to this question doesn’t really say much to the interviewers, in terms of your readiness for the job, your qualifications. They have other intentions while asking it though.
If you have a story you prefer not to narrate–perhaps it is too personal, and a short answer (I’ve been looking for it for nine months) without an additional explanation won’t do, you can refuse answering, just like the applicant in sample answer no. 6 on my list.
Generally speaking, I do not recommend this option, but I understand that in particular scenarios, you may decide to go for it. If you do so, you should always elaborate on your “answer”, explaining why you do not want to tell them. You can either say that there’s a personal reason behind it you do not want to discuss, or, just like the applicant from sample answer no. 6, you can try to convince them that an answer to that question tells them absolutely nothing about your readiness for the job, and they should focus on something else…
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! But do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- Tell us about a time when you influenced someone else.
- What other companies are you interviewing with?
- What questions or concerns do you have about this role?