Explaining Your Employment Gap
As a potential employer is glancing over your resume, they may be confused to see a period of months or even years that you were unemployed, also known as an employment gap. Even though this period of time can often be attributed to conscious personal or professional choices such as staying home to raise children or going back to school, a long period of unemployment can also alert them that a candidate may lack ambition or the necessary skills and abilities to succeed in their career field. Since letting these employment gaps speak for themselves can lead to negative results, it is imperative that you include a brief explanation of why you have an employment gap in your resume’s cover letter. In addition, use the following tips during an interview to confidently discuss an extended period of unemployment, and convince the interviewer that you are the best candidate for the position (despite the time away from your career).
Be honest: When you are asked about the gap in your employment history, honesty is always the best policy. Approach the interviewer’s question with the truth and you will earn their respect, and maybe even the job. Some valid reasons for a career gap include: being laid off and not finding a job that was the right fit, relocating for personal reasons and facing limited job opportunities in a new city, going back to school to expand career options, and taking time off to stay at home and raise children. These are all relatable responses, and should be followed with real examples of how you used your time away from work to develop yourself professionally. The key to answering their question is to be honest and make sure that whether you were unemployed for several months or years, you offer the truth rather than an excuse or exaggeration during your interview.
Stay positive: Let’s be honest, being unemployed is a position that no one wants to be in. You know it, and the interviewer knows it. So instead of spending time speaking negatively about the period of time that you were unemployed, resist the urge to talk poorly about the cause of your unemployment or the time you spent between jobs. Instead, explain that the break in your employment gave you the chance to seek new opportunities that have made you a more well-rounded candidate for their company.
Highlight opportunities: Look back on your employment gap and reflect on what opportunities you sought out and took advantage of to develop skills that would make yourself a more desirable candidate. In addition to job searching, did you earn any certifications, take any continuing education classes to stay current in your field, participate in any professional associations, or even volunteer for organizations in your field or within your community? Taking advantage of any of these opportunities would help you to develop useful career skills. In addition to highlighting these opportunities for professional growth and development in your cover letter and during your interview, include any freelance or contract work that you did to gain meaningful career experience. These opportunities should all demonstrate your commitment to staying active and current in your career field while impressing the interviewer.
Be prepared: Just like there are standard interview questions that you prepare yourself for such as, “what is your greatest weakness”, if you have a gap in your employment history you should expect the interviewer to ask what has kept you from working for an extended period of time. Since you know that your employment history will be a topic of conversation, prepare yourself to confidently and honestly discuss why you have a gap, what opportunities you took advantage of while you were unemployed, how those opportunities helped you to develop professionally, and why (despite your employment gap) you are the best candidate for the job.
Although having a gap in your employment history can feel discouraging, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t qualified for the position you are interviewing for. Rather than letting your confidence dwindle when you are asked about this gap, confidently respond with how you used the time away from your career to your advantage and why you would be the right candidate for their job opening.