Rising to the Challenge: Answers to Job Seekers' Toughest Questions

Seeking and landing the
right job is rarely a piece of cake. In today's ultra-competitive labor
the challenges for career seekers loom larger than ever. No one knows
better than human resources professionals who work with job seekers day
in and
day out. I've asked some of my CTHRA colleagues to offer their expert
into some of the questions we hear most often.

I had some family issues
that caused me to exit the workforce for a while. How do I address this
gap on
my resume and in interviews?

your break in service was 12 months or less, simply say that you took
some time
off to deal with personal matters. If the period was longer, assure
employers that you have stayed active and up to date in your field,
whether it
was through consulting, volunteer work or attending conferences and
Don't try to hide the time gap. Instead devise a strategy to address the
Ask friends to play the role of interviewer, and give you their honest
reactions to your responses.

I was let go from my last
job. How should I talk about that in an interview?

Carefully and in the most
positive manner possible! How you handle this delicate question will
volumes about your integrity, professionalism and ability to field tough
questions under pressure.

If the event happened many
years ago, you can probably avoid the issue until you know whether or
not you
are a serious candidate for the job. But if you were terminated for
cause and
it happened recently, it's far better to disclose the fact up front
rather than
have it appear during employment verification or reference checks (as it
likely will be). Contrary to a widely held misconception, there is no
law that
limits the information employers can release; any restraints are simply
of company policy. Your best strategy: Call your former employer and ask
politely what information they will be releasing to prospective
employers, then
craft your interview answers accordingly.

I have heard that many
companies do a background check on potential hires, including a credit
I have a bad credit rating. Should I mention this during the interview?

You don't need to mention your credit rating or any other personal
unless you are asked to do so, and you may not be. Generally, poor
credit is
likely to pose problems only if you are looking for a job in the
services sector or in another field where you would handle large amounts
money. In that case, you might want to consider a career change, as your
will be a serious impediment. If the question does arise, offer a brief
explanation for your predicament (perhaps a divorce or a medical
Don't dwell on the negative report, but rather on what you are doing to
it in a responsible manner.

I'm almost 60. How can I
sell myself in a world in which most of the workforce seems to be half
my age?

your background for all it's worth! You have a treasure trove of
knowledge and
experience that candidates from younger generations can't offer. While
it is
important to translate that history to modern-day business practices,
you don't
need to be a high-tech whiz. There are still plenty of jobs that don't
sophisticated computer knowledge. Analyze your skills and abilities,
find out
what companies or industries could use them, and target those

What's the best way to
respond to a request for salary requirements?

you're asked about your salary requirements during an interview, start
by asking
what the salary range is for the position. This knowledge will allow you
frame your response accordingly and avoid asking for less than the
budgeted for the position. Also, take care to pay attention to what was
of you, as salary and total compensation are different.

you give your reply, strive to show you're flexible. Consider framing
your response
in this manner, "Not including benefits and incentives, I've previously
between X and Y. Of course, I'm more than willing to look at the
package as a whole when considering a job offer."

How should I respond when
I'm told that I'm "over-qualified" for a job I want?

employer's real concern is that you might be too expensive. Address
compensation issues up front, and spell out the reasons you were
attracted to
this "lower level" position. For instance, perhaps you thrive on
building new
processes or hands-on selling, and this job provides that opportunity
managerial roles do not.

I thought the
interview process went really well, so I was truly surprised when the
called to tell me that I wasn't the best match.  Was I that out of touch
with how things went?

the experience as a learning opportunity. Ask the employer why you were
chosen and what you might have done differently to produce better
results. Pose
specific questions that can help improve your interviewing techniques,
resume or your follow-up delivery, thereby giving you a competitive edge
future interviews.

Due to the sheer volume of
people looking for work, the competition for jobs is staggering. How can
I make
myself stand out from the crowd?

network, network! Make a target list of companies you'd like to work for
make contact with people who know the senior-level decision makers. Set
informational interviews. Seek help from family members, colleagues,
or friends of friends who can get your resume to the top of the stack.

I've been looking for a job
for 16 months, getting one rejection after another. How can I cope with
resulting anger, stress and depression?

recognize that anger, stress, depression and fear are internal emotions
you have the ability to control. Harness the energy those feelings
generate and
put it to work in positive ways such as finding part-time or temp work,
and filling up your calendar with networking events. Do you see a theme
You'll feel better if you get out of the house and engage with other
people! Plus,
you may learn new skills and make connections that can help you
cultivate job

with other job seekers is also a great idea. Not only does it help to
hear how
others are coping with the stress, you can share job leads (an
opportunity that
wasn't right for one person may be ideal for you), and gain insight into
creative career seeker tactics.  Career
seeker clubs are available in many cities, and many professional
associations have
local chapters that offer free or low cost services for career seekers
such as
roundtable discussions, resume writing workshops and such. Take some
time to
check out all of the resources available to you locally.

key is to stay focused on your goals and keep moving forward. No matter
small the steps may be, you'll feel better.

If you're a career seeker
with a sticky wicket, ask CTHRA! Your question may be used for a future
in Television Careers. Please send  questions and article ideas
to cthra@cthra.com.

thanks to the CTHRA board members who shared their expert advice for
article: Karen Bennett, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Turner
Broadcasting System, Inc.; Linda Chambers, Vice President of Corporate
Resources, Bright House Networks; Lisa Kaye, President & CEO,
greenlightjobs; Tomas Matthews, Executive Vice President of Human
Time Warner Cable; and Christopher Powell, Executive Vice President of
Resources, Scripps Networks.