Many individuals have some sort of employment gap in their respective professional careers due to various personal or professional reasons. In fact, in today’s times, we’re seeing many college students who take some time after their graduation or post-graduation in entering the workforce.
What is an Employment Gap?
This is a period of time in someone’s professional career when the person is not formally employed for a few months or years. Employment gaps can be a concern if the reason for that is unexplainable or you do not have any specific reason for that gap. There can be numerous reasons for a person to have an employment gap such as health issues, moving to a new location, maternity leave, sick family members, being laid off or fired, etc.
And you need to know – if you’re mentioning such gaps in your resume then there is almost a 100% chance that you’ll be asked the questions related to it in the interview. But the point is, instead of hiding these details in your resume or getting uncomfortable in front of the interviewer when the discussion of your employment gap starts, you should prepare yourself beforehand to tackle this question confidently.
If you’ve taken some time away from your career to go for further education, to spend some time with your family, to work on your ideas, or for any other reason – then there’s nothing wrong with it.
All you will require is a proper explanation to demonstrate your employment gap reason to the interviewer!!
How to Explain Employment Gaps?
There should be a strategic approach for mentioning the employment gap details in your resume and preparing a worthwhile answer for the employment gap-related question in the interview. Here, in this article, we’ll get to know how to explain the employment gap in the interview. So, let’s get started:
1. Be Self-Aware of the Reason for Having an Employment Gap
First and foremost, you need to become self-aware of the actual reasons for having an employment gap or gaps in your career. Many times, it has been observed that candidates often mention the gap in their resume while applying for a job opportunity but when they’re asked a related question by the interviewer on the interviewer day, they appear blank or confused. It creates a quite negative impact on the interviewer and then the rest of the interview usually doesn’t head in a positive direction.
Some of the most common personal & professional reasons for the employment gap are listed below:
- Medical or health issues
- Further education
- Working on an individual project or business idea
- Family Reasons
- Learning new skills to upgrade or switch careers and many more.
2. Prepare a Valid Explanation Beforehand to Address the Gap
Okay, once you’ll find out the actual and valid reason behind the employment gap – now you need to prepare a convincing explanation for the reason to describe it to the interviewer. You need to structure your answer appropriately to explain it to the interviewer – and yes, don’t confuse the ‘explanation’ with ‘justification’ as you don’t need to justify to the recruiter why you’re right or why you’re not wrong with your decision. You simply need to explain the reason that made you take the decision of having an employment gap. In your answer, you need to – stand by your decisions, confidently explain why you were unemployed during that time, how you used your time, showcase your current skillset and interest in that particular job opportunity, etc. in a brief and engaging manner.
Before moving further, let us tell you that both the above-mentioned approaches are actually needed to be followed before the INTERVIEW DAY! Now, let’s get to know what exactly you need to do and what approaches you need to follow to explain the employment gap perfectly on the interview day:
1. Show Confidence and Don’t Be Defensive
If you’ll start your answer in an apologetic and defensive tone – chances are more the interviewer will also feel a little unsure and uncomfortable. Hence, you need to show confidence in the decision you’ve made. Also, you need to understand that there is nothing wrong with having employment gaps, and neither there is nothing to worry about if your interviewer wants to discuss it in the interview. Whether you took time off for further education, family reasons, career switch, etc. – be honest in telling to the interviewer. Most probably, you won’t lose out on the job opportunity if you appropriately explain the situation – however, if you will try to be too defensive or cover up things then it may surely have a negative impact.
2. Share the Reasons But Don’t Overshare
As of now, you’d have understood that you can mention the reason for the employment gap in the interview by being open and honest – but what you need to remember is not to get into unnecessary and personal details. Yes, there is a fine line between sharing and oversharing – don’t forget that. The interviewer may neither have time to hear every single detail of your employment gap period nor makes any sense and relevance.
For example, if you had to take some time away from your career due to illness or health issues, there is obviously no need to elaborate on the illness or injury details to the interviewers (until and unless they ask themselves from the front). Similarly, in the case of further education reason, you simply can tell about the qualification you went for and why did you opt for it instead of mentioning program details, or other unwanted information.
3. Emphasize More on the Positives of the Employment Gap
One of the major mistakes that individuals often do while explaining the reasons for the employment gap in the interview – they emphasize more on the negative aspects like they blame the situation, badmouthing their previous organization, demonstrating how frustrated they were during that period, etc. It is indeed not a recommended practice. Instead, what you’re required to do is focus on the positive aspects such as highlighting new skills that you’ve learned, describing how productively you used that time, etc. You need to tell about the certifications, training programs, freelance projects, seminars, etc. that you attended or completed during that period. And even if you’ve not learned any new tech skills during the employment gap period – you still can opt to mention soft skills or the positive real-life experiences that you got. In short, you need to show the interviewer that despite the employment gap, you never stopped with the ‘Learn and Grow’ practice.
4. Demonstrate Why It’s The Right Time to Re-Enter the Workforce
This can be considered as the extension of the previous approach or strategy. Yes, when you’re talking about the positives that you’ve got during the employment gap period, you can also opt to mention why it is the right time for you to re-enter the workforce. In more simple words, you need to explain that you’ve completed or fulfilled the task for which you took the time off. For example, if you’ve taken a break to upskill yourself – you can tell the interviewer that now you’ve learned the targeted skills, and now it’s time to implement all those learning skills on the real ground. Similarly, if the reason was any medical issue, you can mention that now you’re absolutely fine and are ready to continue with your professional journey with more enthusiasm and excitement.
The motive behind doing this is to make the interviewer believe that now you’re completely ready to work and won’t consider leaving the organization for another break or gap in the near future.
5. Showcase Your Interest in the Job Opportunity and Position
Lastly, what you need to do is showcase your genuine interest in the job opportunity and job role. Most of the time what happens – when an individual appears for an interview after a considerable employment gap he seems too desperate for a job and ready to accept any job proposal without thinking much about the job role, work conditions, company culture, etc. at that time. However, it often makes a negative impact on the interviewer. When you’re discussing the employment gap reason with the interview, you need to switch the discussion gradually in such a way so that you can tell him/her about your genuine interest in the particular job opportunity or job role and that you’re not here just for the sake of getting any job. It will also help you to showcase your confidence in your decision, abilities, and skills to the interviewer.
Examples of the Best Answers:
Here are examples of a few answers that one can give if asked about the career gap:
Maternity Break: I had to take this voluntary gap from my career due to the birth of my daughter as it was maternity leave. However, during this time I did not sit ideally and kept revising and learning about the new and emerging trend going on in my field. Also, I am well aware of the new technologies as I kept practicing the whole time. Since my daughter is a bit grown up now, I am ready to be back at work eagerly.
Further Education: While I was working in my previous organization, I realized that I need to have more clarity about the job role that I am currently doing. Therefore, in order to study further I had to take a break from my career as it was not possible while working. Now that I have completed my course and learned various things and sharpened my skills I am ready to work more productively and professionally.
Role Change: The honest answer to this question is that the role for which I was working in my last organization was not my call and wanted to do something new. So, I quit my job and had a careful introspection about what I wanted to do in life. Now, when I am here I know this is what is exactly wanted to do and will do it despite the challenges. As this role will give me a chance to rise in my career and I assure you that I will put my heart into it.
Possible Follow-Up Questions Interviewer May Ask:
- What are the things which you want or looking for in your next job?
- The reason for unemployment for such a long time?
- What did you do during that period?
- How would you describe your colleagues from the last organization?
- What challenges did you face in your previous company?
So, this is the way you can tackle the employment gap-related question in the interview confidently. And again, do remember that having an employment gap is not a big deal if you have a valid and genuine reason behind it!!