Discussing Employment Gaps During Your Interview

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You’re a hardworking, dedicated employee with the training and experience you need in order to excel in your target job. You know this is true, and your resume highlights your strongest credentials in well-written, professionally formatted subsections. As you walk in the door and sit down for your interview (printed resume in hand), your elevator pitch is prepared, your suit is pressed, your brain is caffeinated, and you have everything you need in order to make a convincing case.

There’s only one problem. Back in 2010, you spent eleven months on the job market after you were laid off and before you landed your previous position. So what should you do if this gap in your employment history becomes an issue for your current interviewer? Here are a few ways to prepare…just in case.

Recognize a potential red flag.

There are only a few reasons why an employer might choose to ask about a gap in your employment history. First, if the gap is current, she has a right to ask why you’ve been on the market as long as you have, and she may want to know how hard you’ve been looking and what you’re doing with your days in addition to your job search. That’s fine, and there’s nothing wrong with a responsible, respectful employer conducting due diligence. But an employer who views your gap—especially a gap that occurred in the past– as a sign of weakness or a personal failing may not be someone you really want to work for. Find out why you’re being quizzed about this minor detail, and what it means for the future of this relationship.

Don’t become defensive.

You haven’t done anything wrong. All complex people with interesting lives have a few twists and turns in their work history. Intelligent, ambitious people change their minds, they speak their minds, they take risks, they try new things, they make mistakes, and they almost always have more than one job in their records. Most people have been laid off at least once by the age of 30, and by 40, most people have changed their entire careers at least one time. Most people have families that require care, including children and aging parents. And most people experience at least one or two moves across state lines during their adult lives. All of these things typically lead to employment gaps. Explain your gap, but don’t apologize for it.

Redirect the conversation.

Once you’ve provided a brief, straightforward reason for your employment gap, take control of the conversation and shift the focus back to your credentials and skills. Don’t let your temporary departure from the workforce derail your primary goal: Explaining why you’re a perfect match for this position. For more on how to handle tough interview questions, reach out to the job search experts at CSS.

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