How to Explain an Employment Gap

How do employers react to that employment gap on your resume? Is it always a negative reaction? Will employers give you a chance to explain what happened and move forward, or will they just assume the worst and pass on you? Sometimes, the gap in employment is by choice – maybe you were raising a child, traveling, taking care of a sick relative, or went back to school. In other cases, your time off from work may occur because you were laid off or fired and it took time to find a new job.

Not every employer will ask you about your employment gap, but it is always good to be prepared to answer any questions just in case.

Explaining an Employment Gap During a Job Interview

Explaining a gap in employment during an interview can be tricky. The best approach is usually to address the issue in a direct and forthright manner.

These are all good sample reasons for having a gap in employment:

  • Caring for a sick family member
  • Any medical or health issue
  • Taking time off to relocate and find a job in a new state/city
  • Pursuing further education or going back to school
  • Pursuing any other type of professional training
  • Taking time off to travel, study, work on a solo project, etc.
  • Trying to start a business or freelance career
  • You were laid off, your former company downsized, etc… and you had trouble finding a job after
  • You were searching for a job but didn’t find the right fit yet.

Once you have your reason prepared, here are the general steps to follow when explaining gaps in employment in the interview: 

  1. Explain the situation clearly but briefly. They don’t need a ton of personal details. Just give them the core facts. Important note: Remember there’s a difference between explaining and justifying. Don’t get stuck feeling like you have to justify why you stepped away from your career. You’re not out to prove anything.
  2. Highlight new skills you may have learned. Be sure to mention any volunteer work, classes, certifications, or even conferences you attended during your employment gap. If none of those options are relevant, know you probably picked up a new soft skill. Being able to show you’ve grown during your employment gap is respectable, so don’t forget to highlight it.
  3. Show that the situation has ended or is no longer a factor, so they won’t be worried you’ll have to take another break from working. If they hire you, they want to know you’re 100% ready to work for them.
  4. Reiterate your interest in their position and bring the focus back onto this job interview and this position. Make it clear you are ready to return and enthusiastic about getting back to work.

 

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