The thought of having to explain an employment gap during a job interview makes many people uncomfortable. They seem to feel periods of unemployment are almost something to be ashamed of especially if they were fired or made redundant from a previous role.
The truth is, employers know everyone has periods of unemployment. The key is to explain that employment gap confidently and concisely. If it drags on too long it looks like you have something to hide or are protesting too much.
Key Tips For Explaining Employment Gaps
- Remind yourself that employment gaps are normal and everyone has then during their working life.
- Never lie, sooner or later they will figure it out and you will look untrustworthy.
- Don’t try to hide the gap in the hope that they won’t notice. They will notice and wonder what else you are hiding and why.
- Be prepared to explain your employment gap.
- Answer confidently.
- Focus the conversation on what skills you developed during the employment gap period.
Key Ways to Explain An Employment Gap During A Job Interview
You have nothing to gain by making this explanation long and convoluted. All that is required is a short, clear answer that you have rehearsed well and can deliver confidently. To prepare that answer, consider the following steps.
- Explain Why You Are Unemployed
There are many reasons why people are unemployed including taking time to care for children or sick parents, travel, personal illness, redundancy and more. they key thing is to get the reason out up front and move quickly onto the skills and experiences you gained during that period.
- Explain the Length of The Employment Gap
If the unemployment gap is 6 months or longer (many recruiters suggest 3 months or longer) you need to explain what you did during that time. This can include volunteer work, consultancy projects, further study or even just development of life skills. See our 2 posts below to help you come up with really good ways to address the time issue.
- Explain The Skills/Experience you Gained
This is the most important part of the explanation. Yes, you are unemployed but during this period you have developed skills that are hopefully relevant to the job you are applying for. See the posts above for good ideas and if you have been caring for children, see the post below:
- Re Affirm you Are Ready &Motivated to Return to Work
This is the final wrap up sentence. It is especially important if your time off is related to travel, illness or caring for others. Employers want to know that you are now focussed 100% on the role they have to offer.
Finally, you can also consider how your resume and cover letter can help you address this issue before you get to the interview stage. Think about:
Creating a functional rather than chronological resume so the focus is on the skills you have developed rather then the exact work dates. Download our FREE eBook – Beyond the Basic Resume Tips , it looks at both functional and chronological resumes in detail.
If the employment gap is 6 months or longer it can be a good idea to address it in your cover letter following the advice above. This way it has already been considered and accepted before you even reach the interview stage. That said, be prepared to discuss it again during the interview if the employer or recruiter require further clarification.