Self-Employed But Need a Job? Here’s How to Interview

Are you self-employed and attempting to re-enter the workforce as a W-2 employee?

It’s not unusual to “leave the nest” of a salaried job and become an independent contractor or grow a new business/career as a self-employed sole-proprietor. This often proves to be the best option for an individual. But economics, personal needs or lifestyle changes can force a re-evaluation of that self-employment choice. If that has happened to you, during an interview, you’ll face this potentially difficult question:

“Why do you want a job after being self-employed?”

Here is how you can address this question:

Stress the Positives
Focus on how you can help benefit your next employer, not on what the job can give you. We all act out of self-interest and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just be careful to include several clear benefits the employer will gain from your special experience.

You know you will be asked why you want to return to salaried employment. Instead of focusing on what self-employment may NOT have provided you, point out instead what you’ve GAINED from the experience. Remember, this is a unique experience that you bring to the table. It sets you apart from most of your competitors. How you answer this question will either create doubt in the mind of the interviewer or instill confidence.

Give Specific Examples
While self-employed, perhaps you had to work more efficiently to complete a project. Maybe you had several crises and had to rise to the occasion and find creative ways to overcome them. It’s probable that you also had to educate yourself in some new, specific business areas, which gave you a new perspective about your work. Or, maybe you learned how to achieve more results from fewer resources. When you do some analyzing, you’ll no doubt come up with a list of several positive experiences that you gained during your self-employment. Turn these into employer benefits using them in your favor.

Let’s say you’ve been self-employed as a real estate manager and did some investing on the side for the past several years. You’re now in your mid-40s and can no longer make an adequate living doing this on your own. You’re also looking for a chance to move into larger real estate management projects so you’re now looking for a salaried position.

What to do?

There’s no reason you should detail the negative aspects of your situation. Rather be proactive and describe the many ways you’ve grown from your self-employment experience. List several examples. Perhaps you’ve become an expert in real estate landlord/tenant law. Maybe you’ve acquired additional skills in negotiating vendor contracts with a high return on investment. There are probably a number of other areas where you’ve done well. Take the time now to develop a list of the knowledge, skills and abilities that you’ve acquired in self-employment.

Take the Initiative and Talk Bottom Line
Employers are looking for employees who can help them make money or save money. As a self-employed person, no doubt you’ve learned how to make more money with fewer resources. You, more than most, understand the bigger picture of a profit and loss statement. Perhaps because your salaried competitors get a regular paycheck, they don’t often grasp this major economic fact. You have the opportunity to use your self-employment to your fullest advantage by selling each of your experiences as a valuable benefit that can help your employer strengthen his bottom line. Provide several achievements from your self-employment and attach a dollar value to them if possible. Now, indicate that you’re ready to take the next step to bring your special assets as an entrepreneur to your future employer.

If you’re self-employed and seeking a salaried position, you needn’t take a defensive, one-down role. Instead, tally up your positive experiences and sell the employer on who you are: a seasoned professional with unique real-world experience, ready to hit the ground running. Always think, “What’s in it for THEM?”Wherever possible, assign some dollar value to your achievements and link them to what you’re able to accomplish for your next employer.

As a recruiter, Joe Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers. Known on the Internet as “The Job Search Guy,” Joe has also authored how-to books on interviewing and job search. He’s been interviewed on several radio talk shows.


by Joe Turner

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