What is the one thing that worries you when you think of returning to work? Usually it is not the actual work or role, but the process of getting to it. And the most important part of that process is the interview. In the past, job interviews might have seemed relatively easy, because your expertise and experience gave you that confidence. What you have to remember now, is that you still have that expertise and experience, and it is unique to you. That is where you should start when you plan to return to work – revive your belief in the work you have done in the past, revisit your sense of accomplishment from those and regain your drive to succeed in your career.
As you start doing that here are some aspects that you need to plan for prior to the interview, which apply specifically to those who took a career break and are rejoining.
- Be clear about why you took a career break – Always be clear and honest about the reasons for your career break, whether those were within your control or not. The organization should be aware of this information, along with knowing the exact length and nature of the break (e.g. if it was a complete break or a partial one, if you were working part time / freelance / WFH / not working at all / running a venture). And do not be apologetic about it.
- Be clear about why you want to return– Similar to why you took a break, always be prepared with your responses on the reasons for return. These could range from looking for financial independence again, missing the regular work schedules , wanting to do more with your career or any others.
- Prepare well about the company and industry – The world has changed drastically even if your break was a short one since that is the speed of change currently. So, preparing yourself with information and news about the company and industry are of great importance. Speaking to any known sources there will also help. This is important because when you join a new role after a break, there are pre-conceived notions about whether you have spent that time keeping yourself updated or not. It is likely that the interview will have related questions.
- Know what would be a good salary for you –This will be discussed in detail considering you may have been at a certain pay scale before the break and the kind of pay that is being offered now. So, you need to define and share your definition of what is acceptable to you.
- Connect with your previous managers/peers– All organizations require reference checks to be done for prospective employees. If you were in a break, chances are that you might not have been in regular touch with your managers or peers who can actually provide recommendations or given as contacts for reference checks. Remember to reconnect with them and share your plans so that they are prepared when reached out for a recommendation or a check.
- Support network information – If you took a break due to a lack of support network post maternity, you might be asked about what has changed on that front for you to be able to return to work. Hence do remember to be prepared with the response based on your situation.
The above tips are just indicative but they set the foundation for additional questions as well. Preparing for these will help you answer several questions that come up during an interview when you are returning to work after a career break.
By Simran Oberoi
Simran Oberoi is an independent HR Consultant in Bangalore, with HR Advisory, Knowledge Development and Research expertise of over 13 years, in Rewards & Compensation, Diversity & Inclusion, Talent Development, HR & Social Media. She has worked with consulting firms like Hay Group, Aon Hewitt and PricewaterhouseCoopers in the past, in India as well as Asia-Pacific leadership roles. Simran is also a keen baker – you can find her recipes at https://ovenderfulhealthybaking.wordpress.com/