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How to Explain Employment Gaps in an Interview

by | Nov 4, 2020 | Career Advice | 0 comments

If you have gaps in your employment history, there is no need to panic when asked about them. As long as you are prepared, you can explain these in a job interview without jeopardizing your chances of employment by seeming lazy. After all, employment gaps are somewhat common, so look at your gaps in employment as justified if you have a reasonable explanation.

Research has indicated that as many as 90% of Americans have been unemployed at some stage of their working-age lives. The following article will take a deeper look at how you can approach the topic in a job interview and how you can explain gaps and still be successful in your job search.

Accept That You Need to Talk About it and Be Prepared

Having a resume gap will not automatically prevent you from being successful in your job interview. However, prospective employers will expect an explanation and you should be prepared to give a satisfactory response about any employment gaps.

Before attending a job interview, make sure you take time to prepare your answer. Perhaps you had a stage where you did volunteer work, or maybe you didn’t go straight into a job after college. Whatever the reason may be, be ready to speak about it and to go into more detail if necessary about gaps in your employment history.

Tell the Truth

Being deceitful in your job interview is never a good idea and will likely end your job search there and then if you are caught out. Being truthful doesn’t mean you have to go into unnecessary details but it does mean that anything you do say is accurate and honest.

The following reasons are some of the most common for having a gap in employment.

Reasons for Gaps in Employment

Being a Caretaker

Many people take a break from work when needed to take care of a family member. This is often not something you can control and is perfectly understandable.

Losing Your Job

There are many reasons someone might lose their job and if this was the case with you, explain this as truthfully as possible without making yourself sound bad.

Your job loss may be the result of a restructuring where your position was no longer deemed necessary. If this is the case, express how your skills have developed in your time at that role and how it has made you a more employable person.

If you were laid off for another reason, make sure to frame it as an opportunity for growth and bring it back around to the positives. That way, all gaps in employment will be considered periods where you took time for growth and didn’t waste it.

Being Fired

This can be a difficult one to navigate but it is imperative you are truthful while being positive. Consider explaining how you and your previous employers had a difference in expectations and how you have learned and improved from the experience.

Personal Reasons

It can be uncomfortable to go into the specifics of personal reasons as long as your interviewer understands the gist, that is more than enough.

If you had to take time off due to an intimate medical reason or mental health issues, simply tell them that you had to “focus on yourself” but the time away was beneficial. Make sure to express how you are eager and ready to return to the working world and that those personal reasons are now behind you. Gaps in employment can even be positive depending on the circumstances, as long as you are a better person for it now.

Fill the Gap

While it isn’t always necessary to go into great detail on the reasons why you were out of employment, it is definitely a good idea to explain what you did in your time off and any skills you gained.

Mention any reading you did to keep up to date with your industry, whether you stayed in touch with work colleagues, and what you have done to prepare for life back at work.

Make sure to bring up any freelance work, volunteer work, or community positions you have undertaken while away from work at a company. Anything you have done to further your professional development or skills during your period away from work should be brought up here.

The aim is the show the interviewer how you are engaged with the industry even if you haven’t been in formal employment with a company for a while.

Keep it Short and Concise

Lots of people take time off work for some reason. So if you took time off too and have a resume gap from company to company, it is normal. Whether you want to keep these reasons private to a degree or are happy to talk at length, make sure to keep things brief and the point. Explain why you have been off work and how this isn’t necessarily a negative and move on.

Steer the conversation away from your employment gap and back towards your skill set, experience, or aptitude for the job in question. Bring up relevant work history or how you would be an asset to the company.

Whatever you do, try to move the interview away from your employment gap so that it does not become a focus.

In Summary

An employment gap may seem like a burden that can derail your job interview and your job application process as a whole, but it doesn’t need to be. Explain gaps honestly and turn them into a positive wherever possible.

Try not to dwell too long on your time away and move on from your gap in employment as swiftly as you can. The goal of a job interview is to make yourself come across as the best fit for the job, so try to move the focus towards your best attributes and skills.

Take time to practice what you are going to say when asked and make sure you have the points clear in your mind. An assured and well-prepared answer will go down far better than a stuttering unsure response, especially if you are trying to spin your time away from work into a more positive light.

If you follow the advice above, you should be able to navigate any tricky questions regarding your employment gap.

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