How To Explain Gaps In Employment
A gap in employment is a period of time in a job seeker’s employment history that they were unemployed. Employment gaps span from months to years. Regardless of the duration, if you have had a gap in employment, it could be awkward trying to explain your absence from the workforce to an interviewer because you do not want them to think you are lazy or have been involved in something fishy.
There are various reasons why people take a break from their career or from job seeking. It could be to raise a family or to manage their own business, ill health, further studies, or dismissal from their last place of employment. Others might be finding it difficult to get a job. Whatever the reason, while getting ready for your next interview after a long break, it is vital you prepare an explanation for the gap.
Why the Question?
Hiring agents demand an explanation for a gap because they want the best for their companies. They could be recruiting a particular age range, recent graduates, or want employees with in-depth working experience. The question is also a way recruiters find out if an applicant has been off the workforce because of incompetency or criminal and legal issues. They also want to ensure that they hire committed employees who will not be remiss and take a break if faced with challenges.
However, an employment gap does not negate your skills and experience and this is why you need to prepare your answer beforehand and convince your interviewer.
Answering the Question – Things to Include and Things to Avoid
To explain the reason you took a break in the best way possible, you need to be aware of red flags and things to do to make your answer work.
Things to Include
- Be honest: This is one very important, wholesome tip for doing well in an interview. Do not try to manipulate dates, hide or omit details from your interviewer. If they suspect you are hiding or lying about something, your chances of being hired will be reduced because nobody wants to work with a dishonest person.
- Be Confident: Taking a break for personal reasons is not a sin nor is it something to be ashamed of. This is why preparation is important. Practice what you are going to say weeks ahead so you do not stammer, blubber or ramble when the question is brought up. Your ability to exude confidence convinces your interviewer that you are ready for the job despite the hiatus.
- Practice and Prepare: Go over what you want to say a million times. Practice in front of a mirror, a friend, or record yourself and play it back. Preparation works simultaneously with the interview.
- Be Brief: Ensure your answer is straight to the point and avoid unnecessary details. Give an explanation but do not go overboard.
- Sell Yourself: The aim of an interview is to market yourself as a desirable brand to your prospective employees. Project yourself as someone who knows their worth and whose skills are in great demand. A break in your job seeking does not make you flawed or negate your certifications and skills as this article has mentioned earlier. In your answer, include work-related things, online courses, or any other important thing you achieved or skills you garnered while on a break.
- Reassure: Reassure your interviewer that you would not be going on a break again. Tell them of measures you have put in place to make sure you are focused on your career now. If you took a break because of a problem, assure them that the problem has been taken care of.
Things to Avoid
- Do not lie. Do not make up false stories about what you have achieved during the break or hide important details. Recruiters will see right through it.
- Do not give unnecessary details. If you took a break because of an illness, your interviewer would not want to hear every little detail about it. If it is an accident that kept you out of work, it is not really necessary to talk about all the gory details.
- Do not sell yourself short or present yourself as desperate. Present whatever you intentionally took time off to do as worth it. Taking care of yourself, a family member, or recovering from an illness is no small feat. Do not downplay yourself and your efforts.
- Do not use your interview as an opportunity to recount all the woes that have befallen you or bemoan your fate. For instance, telling a prospective employer of your difficulty in getting a job over a long period of time could make them doubt your skills and competence. Say you have been bedridden for a long period of time but really need a job will have recruiters wondering if you are physically able to work. Do not paint your reasons for a break in bold, negative colors. Instead, talk about your skills, achievements, and what you are doing to avoid having a longer gap. Be truthful but cautious, wording your answer in a wise way. Leave sentiments out the door and be professional.
Getting Ready for Your Answer
An important part of preparation is putting down your answer. When you have had an idea of what to say and what not to, it is time to carefully put your answer in words. There are a lot of samples on the internet to guide you. This article has prepared various answers to the employment gap question that cut across a lot of reasons.
If you left the workforce to raise a Family:
‘I took some time off work to take care of my children. They are grown now, in school, and quite independent. I have decided to return to work aware that I will not have much interference from family issues or view my family as a distraction. This will help me strike a healthy work-life balance and help me maintain focus in my career now’
If you Left Work because of an Illness:
‘I had to take an unintentional break from work when I was diagnosed with an illness. I have had corrective surgery and have taken time to recuperate. The doctor has also given me a clean bill of health. I am active and have resumed all physical activities like I used to’
If you have a Gap because of difficulty in Getting a Job:
‘During my employment gap from XXXX-XXXX, I went on interviews, took some online courses, and developed my skill set. I took up freelancing and a few part-time jobs while waiting for an opportunity to be fully engaged and demonstrate my skill set to a company I share the same values with’
If you have a Gap because you were Sacked:
‘Through XXXX-XXXX, I worked at So-and-So as an (insert role). It was a learning experience for me and an opportunity to demonstrate my skills. However, I was dismissed because the company and I had different definitions of prospects. During the gap, I was able to figure out ways I could have done better and believe I have picked important lessons from the experience’
Explaining the reason for a gap does not have to be such a frightful experience. With prior preparation, you can convince your interviewer that you deserve that job. Good luck!