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Acing your interview

Being a person in recovery means confronting the consequences of past mistakes, and this truth is never more evident than when it’s time to go back to work.

Someone in recovery from addiction may have long stretches of unemployment, runs-ins with the law or job terminations in their history. Interviewing sounds scary in the face of all that and emotional obstacles are very real. However, with a plan of action and some thoughtful answers, it is possible to nail an interview and turn lemons into a job offer.


First things first: Going on an interview is stressful. A candidate’s body will respond with sweating, shortness of breath and an unhealthy dose of anxiety. This is normal, but not insurmountable. It’s good to spend five minutes before entering the building breathing in and out deeply and envisioning a positive outcome. Taking necessary pauses during the interview to breathe in, and having a glass of water on hand to prevent dry mouth are also useful interview hacks. Remember to sit up straight; strong posture sends positive messages to the interviewer and helps any candidate feel more confident.


Being prepared is the best strategy for any interview, especially for a candidate in recovery. Consider that an interviewer will ask want to know why there is a period of two years where no jobs are listed. Be as specific as you feel comfortable, which could vary from “I took time off to deal with an ongoing medical issue” to “I was getting sober and healthy.” Remember that a manager or human resources employee can conduct background checks online and easily discover public arrest records and other information — be reflective and thoughtful and never lie.


Recovery is a time of self-reflection, and communicating about personal growth with a hiring manager can turn a potentially awkward discussion into an inspiring one. A candidate in recovery should focus on what their journey has taught them about perseverance, confronting problems and moving forward. Some of the tenets of getting sober will translate well to stressful jobs.


Candidates with a turbulent past should also make it clear that they are forward-thinking. Discussing positive plans for a future career, down to specific milestones, sends a good message to hiring managers. People in a position to bring a new employee on board want to be confident that they are extending a contract to someone who is invested in their role and participating in ongoing success.

Getting a new job while new to recovery presents a challenge, but not one that is insurmountable. With some tactful answers to tough questions in their back pockets and eyes on the future, candidates in recovery can land a great gig.


“Be as specific as you feel comfortable.”

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