How to navigate an interview after recovery [BLOG]

Written By Kayla Richard  

Richard graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education and a master’s degree in agriculture, both from West Virginia University. She worked for Purdue Extension for two years as the 4-H Youth Extension Educator. She has spent the last 8 years as a Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for public schools in Indiana focusing on the areas of health, wellness, child development and early childhood education. 

Now that you have begun conquering your journey of recovery, you are on your way to taking on so many more exciting things. If you have found that one of these things is to start a new career, congratulations! While this is more than likely something that is very exciting, we know that it is also a bit scary to go into something unknown.  

Odds are that it has been a while since you have been in a place mentally and emotionally to keep a meaningful job. Have no fears, we are here to help you as you navigate the road to employment from starting your application to accepting an offer. 

Come with us as we break this down into steps and we can give some tips and tricks for each as we go. 

Step #1: The Application 

Many applications are now accepted online. It is never a bad idea to call or stop by a business to ask for a hard copy of an application to show your interest but be prepared for them to tell you to check on their website.  

Be sure to complete the entire application to the best of your ability and be sure to have it completed before submitting. This may mean taking a little longer to get information to fill out certain parts, but it is better to have it completed than to turn it in with blanks.  

Step #2: References 

Most likely, you will be asked to provide previous employers and a list of references on the application itself. This can be a scary task for a person in recovery. Be sure to put previous places of employment that you left with a good exit. If you had any previous employers who would not speak highly of you, especially if you did not work there long, you may want to consider not listing them. Then comes the hardest part- whom do you list for references? Be sure it is someone who will speak highly of you and your work ethic. Do not put family members or close friends. Sometimes this is hard to do now that you are in recovery because you have had to dissolve some past relationships. Think about individuals you have met along the road to recovery. You do NOT have to give any information to show you were in recovery, but you can put them as acquaintances. Also, be sure that you contact these individuals before listing them as references to: 

  1. Be sure they are okay with you listing them 
  1. Be sure they will say positive things about you 
  1. Double-check their contact information before listing them 
  1. Make them aware they may be getting a phone call from the place in which you are applying 

Step #3: The Interview 

As stated in #2, always remember that you do not have to inform your employer that you are in recovery. While doing so is 100% something to be proud of, we know we are proud of you for doing so, not every person who is hiring, is going to feel the same way. We would give the same advice to someone who wears a medical alert emblem or a religious symbol. While none of these things are anything to be ashamed of, you never, know the mindset and opinions of the person conducting your interview. You want to not be hired based on your abilities and interview skills, NOT on something they should not be judging in the first place. We understand that an employer not hiring you for any of these examples is illegal. However, we also know that it happens all of the time, and normally goes unnoticed. Your path to long-lasting recovery does not define you, nor does addiction. With enough practice and preparation, you will be prepared to interview without having to mention it at all. 

Now, what if you are interviewing with a business that already knows your history, or that openly hires individuals with past substance use disorders, criminal histories, etc. Then, you will use it to your advantage. You have put in a lot of time and hard work to get where you are. You are a rock star, so sell it! You have mastered so many soft skills that you can use in answering questions when applicable.  

Here are some common tips when it comes to interviewing for any job: 

Do your research. Find out about the business and the people you will be working for. If you have questions about the job, talk to someone who works there or somewhere similar. 

Be prepared. While it is impossible to 100% know what questions you will be asked in an interview, the odds are they will all be similar and you can find tons of practice interview questions to go over before the interview. Always be prepared for “Tell me about yourself” and “Why should I hire you” questions. Those are pretty much a given. Also, have a few anecdotal answers ready for the “tell me about a time when….” type questions. 

Dress for Success. Did you know that 33% of interviewers know within 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire someone? This means that your first impression plays a big role. Your appearance, personal hygiene, handshake, eye contact, body language and confidence all play into the first minute and a half. Make sure you use this to your advantage.  

Make it a 2-way street. Most of an interview is the employer asking questions and you answering. Can you imagine being the employer and doing several of those in one day, and how boring that would get? While you always want to have a few questions prepared at the end of the interview, that is not about your pay, you can also tie those in throughout the interview. Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer what they like best about their position, or how long they have worked there. If they ask how you would handle a situation, ask if they have ever had that happen, and how they dealt with it. Also remember that when you do this, never interrupt the person interviewing you.  

Make sure you answer the question and give your reasoning. We all know that some questions are difficult to answer, but part of the interview is how well you think on your feet. Let’s say you get the question “Would you consider yourself to be more of a leader or a follower?”. How would you answer? Some would simply say, “leader”. Others may say “follower”. Some may think they are being smart and answer, “both”. The truth is, none of those are great answers. Giving your reasoning is going to make it a good answer, regardless of which choice you pick. So when you practice your questions practice with answers like “I would consider myself to be a follower because…”.  

Don’t lie. If it has been a while since you have had a job and you are asked about the gap in your employment, do not lie. While you do not have to disclose that you were seeking treatment, you do want to be prepared to give an answer to explain.  Most times giving an answer like “I had some family problems that required my full attention at the time and required me to have a brief period of time where I was not employed” will answer the question, while still not having to go into much detail. 

Be positive. It is common in interviews to be asked about past employment. More specifically about why you left. Never talk badly about your previous employers. This may make your interviewer wonder about your social skills and what problems they may have with an employee that they had similar problems with in the past. Instead, you can focus on reason, such as communication, and how you worked through it. You may also focus on another reason you left. When in doubt, focus on wanting something from your past job that the current position offers.  

Step #4: Accepting an Offer 

Congratulations! If you have made it this far, you are almost there. Ultimately, the choice to accept a position is completely up to you. However, never be afraid to ask a few questions before saying yes. This is the time to ask about pay, benefits, vacation days, scheduling, etc. This is where you want to be sure that the position and employer will work with you and your needs. If everything sounds like what you want/need, then accept! If something does not sound like what you want, then ask for clarification or try to negotiate where you can. 


Wherever you are on your road to recovery, keep going! We are so proud of what you have accomplished so far and know others in your life are as well. There is nothing that you cannot do if you set your mind to it, and put in the work. Always remember, if you are unsure what field you would like to work in, narrow your options by contacting individuals working in the fields you are considering to ask questions about what the career is really like. People love to share their work experiences! You can also ask if there are positions available for you to volunteer or job shadow to give you an idea about what a typical day entails. 

Quick Tip: Contact the Education/Employment Specialist through IMPACT WV if you are needing assistance finding a career that is right for you. Referrals can be made to assist you in finding gainful employment, all while addressing any barriers you may be facing.  

Quick Tip:

Sign up for a Home Visiting Program! These programs are so helpful to new moms! They can help get you things that you need and teach you tricks on being a new mom and raising your baby. These programs will come right to your home and don’t worry, they do not judge you about ANYTHING and are just there for support! Click here to sign up

Get Connected

Being a new mom is much easier, when you have a group of other new moms who you can reach out to with questions and for support!

You are not alone!

4th Trimester Project

Did you know that there is a Facebook group for Mothers on MAT?

IMPACT does not participate or endorse this group and is only sharing as a resource