Have you been absent from work more than a few days in any previous position?

This is a pretty straightforward question. In asking this, the interviewer wants to know if you are a dedicated employee or not. To see whether or not the company can depend up on you for consistently, or will you be a flaky employee.

There is no trick to answering this question, other than just be truthful. If you haven’t take more than a few days off in a job, then just say no and that you have been lucky that you haven’t had the need to yet.

However, if you have, then there is no shame in it. Just be truthful and say yes. But be sure to explain why you had to take the days off. Perhaps, you were sick or needed medical leave. Perhaps, someone else in your family was sick. Perhaps, something happened where you were forced to take a few days off. It doesn’t matter whatever it was, just clear it now. After all, sometimes things are out of our control. The worst thing that can happen here is that you lie and say no, but then the interviewer finds out otherwise while checking your references.

If you took the leave to take some classes, go back to school, attend a conference, or work on another project, mention it. Be sure to highlight how you gained new skills and how these skills aided your development, and made you a better employee in the long run.

In addition to explaining why you had to take a leave, also highlight that the transition in and out of work was smooth. Mention that before leaving you made sure all the time sensitive work was completed, or that you successfully handed it off to your colleague or whoever was going to handle stuff during your absence. Maybe you can mention that even though you were on leave, you were available via phone call or e-mail to answer or address anything that might come up in your absence.

It is important here to show that even though you were at leave, you didn’t just abandon your work and the company. They need to know that you are a consistent employee and wouldn’t just leave the company high and dry like that. No company wants an employee like that.

Sample Answer:

I once had to take 3 weeks off from work. I was working and studying at the same time, and needed to take some time off when my exams rolled around. It was difficult to study and work full time which is why I wanted to take some time off and give my full attention to the exams. My manager understood that I wanted to add new skills to my repertoires and fully supported me. Before leaving, I briefed my colleague on what needed to be done in my absence, and she knew that I would be available by e-mail if she needed my assistance.

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