Wondering How to Explain That Gap In Your Work History? Start With This.
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Wondering How to Explain That Gap In Your Work History? Start With This.

by Katherine Nobles
Photos Joe Kathrina | September 01, 2015

UNEMPLOYMENT HAPPENS, AND IT’S A STICKY SUBJECT IN INTERVIEWS. FOLLOW OUR TIPS TO HELP YOU ANSWER ONE OF THE HARDEST QUESTIONS.

There are a number of reasons you may have a gap in your work history – perhaps you relocated, got laid off, or took time to travel or raise a family. Whatever your situation, it’s often tricky to explain that employment gap to prospective employers. Here are three tips to help you prepare a perfect answer to a difficult question. 

GET COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR PITCH 

When an employer looks at your cover letter or resume, what story does it tell? Does it align with how you describe yourself in an interview?  People often make the mistake of over-focusing on that gap in employment, drawing more attention to it than the employer would have. Instead focus on the positive by showcasing what you’ve accomplished and what you can bring to the table. {Click to Tweet} Not sure what to say? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are my top 3 strengths?
  • What skills have I gained from past experiences?
  • How could I help this organization improve and grow?
What were you doing during your time off that improved your skills or expertise? Even if they seem irrelevant, [these activities] still demonstrate your drive, commitment to professional growth, and prove you haven’t just been slouching on the couch for months.

Related: How to Survive Being In Between Jobs 

THINK ABOUT HOW YOU MADE IT WORK FOR YOU 

What were you doing during your time off that improved your skills or expertise? Did you take on freelance gigs, volunteer, further your education, participate in professional organizations? These endeavors are great items to list on your resume or discuss in an interview. Even if they seem irrelevant, they still demonstrate your drive, commitment to professional growth, and prove you haven’t just been slouching on the couch for months. Practice strategically highlighting them by considering the following:

  • How have I (or could I) productively filled my time away from a full-time job?
  • What transferrable skills have I gained from these experiences that would benefit me in my next role?
Be upfront when asked about your employment gap but answer with eloquence. Employers want to hear you’ve treated your time off as a period of self-reflection.

Related: One Careerless Contessa Shares Her Survival Tips

STAY HONEST AND OPEN UP (BUT BE DIPLOMATIC)

This probably goes without saying, but you should never exaggerate, hide, or lie about any information in the job search process. And you should never speak badly of a former employer or boss, either. Be upfront when asked about your employment gap but answer with eloquence. Employers want to hear you’ve treated your time off as a period of self-reflection. {Click to Tweet} Again, focus on the positive:  

  • What did you learn about the industry during your downtime? What about yourself?
  • What did it teach you about your goals and priorities? How do those relate to the position you’re after?

By taking time to consider these questions and reframe your personal pitch, you’ll be well on your way to feeling more comfortable and confident explaining your gap during your job search.