how to answer employer’s worry about your previous self-employment

A reader writes:

I just called a hiring manager to see what the status of my application is. He informed me that I made it to the next round, but that his concerns about hiring me stem from the fact that I have been self-employed for the past five years, and he is not sure how I will settle into a strict 9-5 job where I have to answer to other people. What is the best way to address his concern during the next interview?

To some extent, the best answer to this stems from your own thoughts on his question. Why do you think that shouldn’t be a concern for him? For instance, maybe working for yourself has given you a ton of insight into the burdens and challenges of being a manager, and you expect to be especially sensitive to and empathetic about that once you have a manager again. Or maybe you’d absolutely thrilled to work a 9-5 schedule, after years of having to work at all hours to drum up business for yourself, and can’t wait to get back into a more traditional routine. Maybe you’re more business-minded than ever after being in a position where you were entirely dependent on your own efforts to generate income.

Basically, the employer is seeking to make sure that you’re not going to have problems accepting someone else’s management and management style, and that you’re not going to realize that you hate the switch after a few weeks on the job.

How do you feel about having a boss again, and working a more traditional schedule in a more traditional setting? Your answer lies in there.

{ 2 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie*

    As usual the answer Alison gave is exactly right. I am sure all of us who have significant time on our resumes for self-employment/consulting have had to deal with doubts when applying for more traditional jobs.

    I had one short answer which was that I love what I do, but hated the self-promotion and marketing aspects of being a consultant. Once I stated that I was really looking forward to being back in an environment where I could focus solely on what I do best it invariably turned the conversation to exactly what that was. This was great because it not only allayed their fears but organically redirected the interview back to my skill set, which is where I wanted it.

    Of course, I'm in IT where it doesn't hurt you if you hate marketing. If you're in sales or PR this probably wouldn't be the best approach.

  2. Street Philosopher*

    Good point Jamie. It may make a great difference in terms of what the job is and what the work entails. However, I think working for yourself successfully (read: 5 years!) could be a strategic way to discuss the recognition of successful techniques not just for management skills, but organizational techniques. Economic downturn aside, sometimes being able to manage a business can help develop the ability to see how managing the details of the day-to-day allows someone to see the importance of the greater mosaic regarding end of year objectives and long-term strategies.

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