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5 Questions People Will Ask You When You're Unemployed (And How to Answer Them)

Updated on February 12, 2014


Being unemployed in 2014 shouldn't carry the same stigmas as it has in recent decades: the economy is at a low point, jobs are constantly being outsourced to other countries with cheaper sources of labor, and the influx of college attendees and graduates means the competition is tougher than ever. Unfortunately, many hard-working men and women still struggle to understand the stresses of not being able to find a steady job, and whether they mean to or not, they will ask questions that hit a sore spot. It's best to be prepared for these questions so you can readily and confidently answer rather than be caught off-guard and give way to emotions.


"Why Don't You Have a Job?"

This is, without a doubt, one of the most painful questions to be asked, but it's a very common one too. The people most likely to ask this question will be those who have been working consistently since a very young age (generally, those ages 40 and over), to whom "unemployment" is synonymous with "laziness." More often than not, those who ask this question will do so out of legitimate curiosity rather than spite.

How to Respond:

In most cases, it pays to be honest. If you lost your job due to downsizing or outsourcing, say it. If you are a recent graduate and you're struggling to find a job in your field, let them know. It's better to come out and say that you can't find work than to say anything else and imply that you don't want to find work. If for nothing else, it will at least get you some sympathy, and the person who asked will likely avoid such a touchy subject in the future.

"Have You Tried _______?"

Those who are sympathetic to the problem but have never been in the same boat will be the first to offer advice. They think they're genuinely being helpful, when in reality they are usually grinding salt in the wound, especially when their ideas have already been tried (often countless times). What's worse is, unless they have some greater insight into the situation, they'll just be repeating the same ideas as everyone else.

How to Respond:

Be ready to rattle off a list of ways you've looked for work, be it job posting sites, cold-calling different companies, marketing yourself to potential employers, or networking. This will show that you have actively been seeking employment instead of waiting for a job to fall into your lap. It will also prove that you are self-motivated and ready to fight for the job you want. Whatever you do, tell the person that you appreciate their help and sympathy- you do not want to burn any bridges.


"Should I Ask Around For You?"

This seems like the ultimate pity question, when in reality it's the only way some people can actually give help. They will offer to bring it up with someone in their company, or name-drop to a friend or coworker who "might know someone." They'll provide the contact information of someone who works in a related field and has done pretty well. They might even call everyone in their contact book to see if they've heard anything.

How to Respond:

"Yes, please!" Never miss out on an opportunity to network, even if you don't think anything will come of it. Your credentials could be forward to a "guy who knows a guy who knows a guy" who might be looking for someone exactly like you. Your dad's old bowling buddies, your old roommate's cousin Larry, a friend from high school- these could be people with an extensive list of professional contacts just waiting for the right recommendation for their open position. Word of mouth could go a long way towards netting you the career you've been looking for.

Biking and other physical activities are a great, cheap hobby.
Biking and other physical activities are a great, cheap hobby. | Source

"So What Do You Do With Your Time?"

The most backhanded question on the list, this question seems innocent enough until you consider the implications: the person asking might think of unemployment like an extended vacation, and is likely jealous for the "time off." In reality, unemployment can be the hardest time of a person's life, often spent living well below his or her usual standard and mindfully watching a rapidly-decreasing bank account.

How to Respond:

Tell them exactly what you do with your time- just make sure it's something productive. This starts with making a commitment to using your time to better yourself. Find volunteer work or a part-time job related to your desired career; not only will this keep your skills sharp, but it looks much better on a resume, because it shows employers that you're passionate about your career. Aside from those, you could start a hobby, but make sure to choose something cheap (or free) so you don't spend the precious little money you have: things like biking, hiking, reading, writing, or playing an instrument are great hobbies on a budget. Ideally, try to do things that allow you to meet new people (always think: network, network, network!).

Have you heard any of these in your own unemployment experience?

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"What Happens if You Don't Find a Job?"

This can be a scary question, especially when the answer isn't exactly clear. Everyone who's ever had expenses knows the importance of having a steady income, but not many know what to do once the money stops flowing. The time spent looking for the perfect career is never wasted, but occasionally that time runs longer than expected and panic sets in: it's in these times that this question seems more frightening than ever.

How to Respond:

"I will find a job." Be confident: positivity breeds results. You know the career you want, you've spent time applying and researching- as soon as the perfect opportunity arises, you'll grasp it. Don't let other people's success bring you down, because once you get the career you're looking for, you'll be much more happy and appreciative having fought to get it.

Doug C. is an English major with a love of all things geek- gaming, tech, literature, you name it. Follow him for more!

© 2014 Doug C.


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    • AlexisG profile image

      Alexis 4 months ago

      These are excellent answers and yes, you will get asked all of these. Networking is often the best way to find a new job. Sometimes the guy at the coffee shop is the guy who knows how to get you your next job! Being positive is so critical too. If you feel defeated (and you shouldn't let yourself) it'll show in interviews and in your resume or cover letter.

    • dglsconklin profile image

      Doug C. 3 years ago from Beach Lake, PA

      Thanks for the comment! I had the same experience, which is exactly why I wrote this hub. It's easier to deal with these kinds of questions when you expect them and you've prepared for them. Also, as an added benefit, preparing to answer these questions should make anyone going through unemployment rethink how they're approaching it, and hopefully they can take a stronger, more positive approach!

    • ilikegames profile image

      Sarah Forester 3 years ago from Australia

      Where was this page last year for me? I often find that the problem with these sort of questions is they just put you down further and make everything harder.

    • dglsconklin profile image

      Doug C. 3 years ago from Beach Lake, PA

      Unfortunately, most of us will never see a penny of social security either. More people taking out than putting in will leave none for the current generation of first-time workers when they retire. Crazy considering you're not getting it either after paying for so long- where is it really going?! Lining some fat cat's pockets maybe.

    • JonDIDit profile image

      JonDIDit 3 years ago

      Here's questions for you....

      monies for SS, unemployment, disability and WC are taken from our pay checks beside the payroll tax. I understand that SS is for retirement; disability, if I am hurt and can't work for while; WC if I get hurt on the job but IF I have worked for 30 years and never drawn a penny of unemployment , why am I limited to 26 weeks when things are tough? Where is the rest of the money I paid in for 29 1/2 years? If I started working at 17 and worked until I drew my SS and never collected any of them where does the money I never collected go? If I worked till 30 and dropped dead where does all the money taken out of my check go? None of it goes to my spouse or children. Why am I being penalized for having a job by paying a tax of any kind? Isn't income tax enough? Isn't that a double tax? Talk about a racket!!!!