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How to explain an employment gap in an interview

Gaps in employment are common these days. Regardless of whether you take a break from your career out of choice, like traveling or trying your hands with an entrepreneurship project, or out of no choice, like taking care of a sick family member, pregnancy, etc., a gap on your resume can be a difficult thing to explain in a job interview. While every situation demands a different approach, today, I will share some important aspects to keep in mind while explaining an employment gap in an interview.

Here is a scenario. You have not been employed for nearly a year since you were taking care of a sick family member. Now with the sickness healed, you want to get back on a job and start looking. The first question in your mind is:

Do I need to mention the employment gap on my resume?

One of the most important things to be kept in mind while preparing a resume is –refrain from lying. Remember, employers verify your work history and if they discover a lie on your resume, then you will not just lose the job opportunity but also create a bad reputation. And, in the age of social media, it is something that you would want to avoid.

I strongly recommend that you include the employment gaps on your resume. However, you could make these gaps less obvious by following certain strategies as given below.

  • Avoid using the Month, Year format in your resume. Stick only to the year instead. (Instead of mentioning August 2015 to September 2017, you can mention 2016 to 2017 only.)
  • Use a resume format that lays less emphasis on the dates.
  • If you have more than 15 years of experience, then you might want to consider omitting a couple of jobs from your resume.
  • Ensure that you update the other experience or qualification gained during the gap.

While a resume with less-obvious employment gaps might get you through an interview, explaining an employment gap in an interview can be tricky. Here are some tips:

Tips to explain an employment gap in an interview

Since a break in a career can be due to various reasons, the way to tackle the questions pertaining to the gap is different too. Here are some examples:

Explaining a higher education-related employment gap in an interview

While most employees feel that prospective employers will look at this scenario positively, it is important to understand that companies do not prefer employees who think a break in a career is an option at all. With executive programs designed for working professionals, organizations expect employees to work and study at the same time. Hence, while explaining a gap due to higher education, it is important that you explain the reasons why you thought that dedicating your complete time and energy was essential for the same. Try to focus on the qualities that you acquired during the said period too.

Explaining a personal reasons-related employment gap in an interview

This can be more awkward than the one mentioned above. Let’s say that you wanted to travel across Europe or take care of an elderly relative or some other personal issue that you wanted to resolve and hence, you took a break from your career. How do you ensure that this does not create a negative impression on the interviewer?

First, remember to be honest. I am assuming that with social media, nothing that you do is truly hidden from the world. State the reasons behind the gap truthfully. Next, ensure that you communicate to the interviewer that the problem or the reason is behind you. Also, stress on the fact that going forward it will not affect your productivity. Be assertive and positive. For travel breaks, you can talk about the fact that since you were handling critical projects in your earlier job, you wanted to recharge your batteries before you could commit 100% again.

As an aside, if you are planning to take a break from your career, then it is prudent to take steps that can help you explain the gap when you decide to get back to your career. Some things that you can do are: join an online course to improve your skills, take up a consultant/temporary job if possible, and stay in touch with the industry.

Explaining an employment gap in an interview if you were laid off

This is a sensitive area. If you were laid off due to a reduction in workforce and couldn’t find another job soon leading to a gap in your employment, then mention it clearly to the interviewer without spouting angry words about your previous employer. Also, talk about how you spent the gap improving your skills or knowledge. On the other hand, if you were terminated from your job, then ensure that you accept your responsibility for the reasons behind the termination. Further, explain the steps that you have taken to learn from the experience.

Remember, an interview is all about allowing the interviewer to understand you – which includes your achievements and failures. Give him a good overview of your personality and try to keep the achievements in the spotlight of the conversation.

Also read: What to do if you lose your job?

At Change Ur Story, we are aware of the barriers faced by professionals trying to bridge a career gap. We offer Resume Writing Services to help you craft a CV focusing on the right areas and Interview Coaching to help you prepare for various questions about your profile that an interviewer might ask. If you are wondering about how to explain an employment gap in an interview, then drop us a line and start your journey back into the corporate world.

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