THE BLOG
01/09/2013 10:25 am ET | Updated Mar 11, 2013

Preparing for an Interview When You've Been Out of the Game

If you have been on the job search for a while, you're not alone. About 40 percent of the nearly 13.3 million unemployed Americans have been without a job for six months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, of that 40 percent, four million have been jobless for a year or more. On top of that, it takes the average American job seeker about 39 weeks to find a job after being released.

When you are a long-time job seeker or even if you stayed in your last job for a while, you can end up looking a bit rusty in your next interview. This happens even to focused job seekers -- when they are invited to interview only days before. To avoid waiting another 39 weeks, start preparing now for your next interview.

Here are steps to take before your job interview when you've been out of the game for a while:

Know what has changed

The hiring process has changed for many employers. Over the past few years, organizations have become even more sensitive to the costs of bringing in new employees. They want to make sure every hiring decision brings in the right person. They also want to limit the amount they spend on recruiting. As a result, your interview experience in will be different in several ways.

First, you can expect to participate in more rounds of interviews and are likely to experience a greater diversity of interview types. You will encounter a greater variety of questions, especially questions like, "Tell me about a time when...".

The format of your interviews may also be different. For example, some organizations now use video or Skype interviews even for top positions. Others may request two or three phone conversations before meeting you in person, and some companies may prefer other methods, such as group interviews, panel interviews, or informational interviews.

Be sure to find out what approaches are used by the firms where you are applying, so that you can be well prepared by the day of your interview.

Take a preparation course

In a successful job interview, you need to apply certain communications skills... skills which you may not use anywhere else. Rather than try to develop these skills by yourself or hire an expensive personal coach to train you, consider taking a course. Certain interview preparation courses can help you understand why you want the job, how to apply that passion in your interview, and how to approach different types of questions.

By focusing on these underlying factors, you are able to answer important interview questions more proficiently. At their core, preparation courses assist you in presenting yourself as an authentic and confident job candidate.

Know how to justify your professional history

It's important to defend the reasons why you were unemployed. Perhaps you were let go due to budget. Maybe your company experienced a merger or acquisition. As with millions of other Americans, you may have been a victim of circumstance. However, this doesn't mean you should worry if the interviewer asks what you've been doing through your unemployment. It gives you the chance to highlight some positive activities.

For example, many professionals volunteer, work part-time, develop skills on their own, or take an internship while job searching. This shows the interviewer two things: you didn't waste your time during your time without a job, and you used this opportunity to make yourself better.

Although you may have been out of the interview game for a while, don't let it deter you from performing well and landing the job. Do your research, take a course, and highlight what makes you an asset. With these tips in mind, you'll succeed in any interview, no matter how long you've been unemployed.

What do you think? What are some other ways to prepare for an interview when you've been unemployed?

Alan Carniol is the Founder of Interview Success Formula, a program that helps job seekers to deliver powerful answers that prove why they are the right person for the job. Follow Alan and Interview Success Formula on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.