How to Address an Employment Gap During an Interview
If you’ve had an employment gap between jobs in the past, an employer will notice it. After all, it’s on your resume, which should show the years you held each position. It will also be on your job application form, which almost always has spaces for the years you worked at each position.
Gaps between jobs need to be addressed.
Why You Need to Discuss a Gap
You need to discuss a gap because a potential employer will notice it. Plan to address it during your interview. Potential employers like to see steady employment. It’s no mystery why. They are looking for people who are reliable and hard working. Steady employment indicates that as far as they’re concerned. Gaps in a resume may worry them.
Now, we’re not saying that a gap in your resume means you aren’t reliable. Not at all: you may be extremely reliable and a great worker. We’re only saying you have to address the gap in a way that relieves your interviewer of worry. You can even give it a positive twist if the gap is for an activity that provided you with additional skills.
A gap can exist for many reasons. Maybe you took time off to raise a family. Perhaps you needed to help a sick family member. Maybe you took a trip around the world. Perhaps your department was downsized.
Prepare how to discuss the gap before an interview
Prepare to Tell Them Why and What
Whatever the reason, you need to prepare to discuss it during the interview. Perhaps you’ll be asked a direct question. If you’re not, prepare something you can work into the interview. You want to give an honest reason. Then, tell them what you’ve learned from the gap that will benefit them if they hire you.
If, for example, you raised small children in the gap, tell them that you can manage people very effectively. After all, you ran various fundraisers at the elementary school and served on the PTA for several years. If you traveled, tell them you are highly flexible and adapt well to sudden changes.
What if your gap is due to unemployment solely? Perhaps you were downsized or let go from a past job. Simply address that fact honestly. It happens. You are not alone.
If you are concerned that employers will look negatively upon being let go, tell them what you’ve done to improve your skills since then. Have you worked a contract or gig economy job that has given you valuable qualifications? Volunteered to learn new skills? Place the spotlight on the positive.
Never speak negatively of a former employer or supervisor. Even if the gap was caused by something you feel was unfair, it’s important to stick to the positive. Why? Well, if hiring managers hear you comment negatively about a former employer, they may assume you are chronically negative about supervisors or companies. They don’t want to run the risk of you being negative about them in the future.
So, you might say something like “Although I was laid off from my position, my employment at Company Y taught me so much about the importance of prompt and reliable service. I’m confident that I can use those skills to benefit your customer service department.”
You’ve brought the focus around to how you can do a good job for the position, which is ultimately the aim of every action you take in an interview.
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