A common situation many job seekers face is having an employment gap on their resume. A gap could be due to either being out of work, or taking a job that does not require your qualifications and education and does not align with your career development. While having a period of time during which you were not working is nothing to be ashamed of, you need to be prepared to confidently discuss it, if it comes up in an interview.
If you have had a lengthy job search, answering that you have been looking for another job is not going to impress the interviewer.
- Discuss volunteer work, internships, or further education you have pursued.
- Tie these pursuits to the job you are applying for.
- Show that you have been keeping up to date with skills applicable to the job, or have developed new ones.
- If you haven’t been filling your employment gap with productive activities, start now! Read: Productive Ways To Fill Resume Gaps
- Do not discuss the challenges of your job search in a job interview or explain why its taken so long.
- Focus on demonstrating how your time off will make you better at solving problems for the employer once hired.
If you have been out of work due to raising children, caring for sick family members, or dealing with an illness yourself:
- Answer the question honestly. Employers understand that situations in life arise requiring people to step away from work for extended periods of time.
- Do not go into personal detail. If you’ve been ill, mention it briefly and say you are now well and ready to work.
- If you have been able to further your education, mentor someone, or volunteer while you have been out of work, highlight this and relate it to the desired job.
- If you have kids, talk about leadership roles you have taken on for sports, the babysitting coop or a parenting group. Have concrete achievements to share and relate what you did to your promise of future value for the company. For example, one mom said “I put my business skills to work while on maternity leave and formed a neighborhood babysitting co-op. We ended up with more than 75 families participating and bartered a total value of more than$50,000 in services over the course of one year!”
- Prepare stories which demonstrate how a skill or trait used while you were off of work will allow you to bring value or solve problems for a new employer. For help with creating great stories, read: Art Of Telling An Effective Story
If you’ve taken time off of work to travel or for other personal pursuits:
- Bring out your readiness to return to work and your commitment to working.
- Make clear this time away from work was unique, not something you plan to do regularly.
- Articulate how what you’ve learned or experienced during your time off of work will make you a stronger contributor to a new employer.
In all cases be positive. Do not share personal details or challenges unless they relate directly to your ability to solve problems and bring value to the company. Share stories that demonstrate how you used your skills and created value during your time off. Show your interviewer how your time off will make you an even better employee when you’re hired.