Choosing to get back into work is a huge step. After a long time out of work, or without having to an interview, it’s easy to lack confidence or feel like you are no longer qualified. We are here to show you that whatever you have been doing, you will have been building skills which are right for any workplace.
Going to a job interview can be daunting at the best of times, and that pressure is even more challenging if you are refreshing your career, or returning from a career break. The key to a job interview is confidence in yourself and your abilities.
Choosing to change your job for something more fulfilling is an admirable decision and one you should see as a strength, not a weakness. The same applies to those who are getting back into work. By applying for jobs, you are already proving your dedication to working again.
Interview tips for career changers
Whatever industry you have been in up to now, or whatever you have been doing outside of work, you will have developed essential skills which are valuable in the workplace. That might be communication, resilience, routine or organisation.
Talk to the employer about your willingness to undertake further training opportunities. Whether you have had some time out, or have been in a different sector, you may need some additional training. Whether that is part-time studying, night courses or adult apprenticeships, show the employer the benefits of hiring somebody who is retraining.
Be prepared to answer questions on why you are changing your career. There is a false assumption that career-changers are flippant and unreliable. Show them how hard it is to change, and that you wouldn’t be choosing this new path if you weren’t confident it was what you wanted in life. They might see that you want a new challenge, or that you have had a break to raise a family.
As an ex-offender, it can be tough to find work, but there are services out there to help. Take the time to research the job programmes available in your area; many charities and organisations support ex-offenders by offering interview or application assistance.
Many inclusive employers do not believe in the blanket assumptions put on ex-offenders. A national campaign known as ‘Ban the Box’ is fighting to remove the criminal record tick box on job applications to help remove stigma and decimation based on somebody’s past.
Some well-known ex-offender friendly employers include Timpson’s, Greggs, Co-op, London Norther Eastern Railway and Virgin. For more information, visit the government website for information on their project See Potential which encourages employers to see more in ex-offenders than their criminal record.
Interview tips for ex-offenders
- Before the interview, think about all the skills and experience you already have. This could come from previous employment, placements you did during your time in prison or things you have completed since. If you do not have much formal job experience, then think about what else you have done which indicates your skills and behaviours as an employee.
- Be prepared to be asked about your criminal history. You do not have to provide any details or information you are not comfortable with, but prepare as if it will come up. Focus on your growth since that time and everything you are doing to move on. However, it is worth noting that lying about your time in incarceration will make it harder to find and retain a job when they find out.
- Be confident and relaxed. This is one of the essential parts of a job interview. If you are worrying too much, you won’t be able to show off your best qualities. Imagine all the possible questions and your answers to them before going to the interview so you can act confident, even if you are feeling anxious!
Returning after parental leave for maternity, paternity or adoption
Another difficult time to return to work is after maternity, paternity or adoption leave. Your life and priorities will probably have shifted massively, and it can be intimidating to go back to a work environment.
Remind yourself that becoming a parent has helped you to develop many transferable skills you didn’t have before. You may be a better listener or communicator, and you may have better empathy skills. On a more practical level, you may be better at multi-tasking and planning.
If you need to, ask for flexible working hours to assist your new life with a child. This may come up in the interview if the employer is aware of your leave. Don’t be afraid to ask for the adjustments you might need as a new mother or father. Many employers are committed to supporting parents as they return to work, and a big part of this is allowing flexibility with hours and locations.
For more information on changing careers, see our guide to changing career at thirty, forty or fifty.