Four Ways To Explain Employment Gaps During a Job Interview

If you have gaps in employment on your CV, hiring managers will surely ask about them. Preparing for that question can help you ace your job interview!



What is a gap in employment?

Gaps in employment are durations in time in which you are not employed. These time periods can vary in length based on your individual circumstances. This can potentially be a cause for concern among your potential employers.

Gaps in your employment history will certainly raise questions, but it does not always have to. You need to have a strong explanation for why you have an employment gap in a section of your CV.

Why do interviewers ask about gaps in employment?

There are a few main reasons interviewers want to inquire about your CV gap:

They want to understand your motivations
Many job recruiters want to have a better understanding of job seekers’ motivations, especially if you chose to leave employment.

They want to know why you became unemployed
Becoming unemployed can be a red flag for potential employers. Knowing how and why you became unemployed, especially if it was non-voluntary, can say a lot about how you may or may not fit in a new work environment. Job interviewers want to determine if you were fired or laid off.

They want to see that a gap doesn’t hurt your employability

Just because interviewers inquire about your gaps in employment does not mean they are criticizing it. They simply want to see if their interviewee is ready for their next job coming out of a career break, or has the proven skills, qualifications and passion for reentering the workforce.

How to address employment gaps?

One should always be prepared for addressing their employment gaps because interviewers seldom, if ever, ignore them. There are five main ways you can address employment gaps during your interview questions:

1. Prepare for the question.

Always be prepared for interviewers to ask about your employment gap.

2. Provide the reason for your employment gap (even if it is just “personal reasons”).

Your employment gap can prove to be beneficial to your story during an interview. For instance, you may have taken that time off to focus on other things, such as working toward certifications or focusing on volunteer work.
The explanation for your employment gap does not always have to be grandiose. Taking personal time off from work is valid as well, but you should be honest about this in your interview. For example, taking time away from being employed to act as a caregiver for a family member is valid. Maybe your old job was experiencing a bunch of layoffs. The COVID-19 pandemic is also a valid reason for an employment gap.

3. Discuss what you did in the gap.

What you did during unemployment is just as important as why you had a career gap. If you did happen to be working on other certifications, describe that in your interview. Those certifications you worked toward may have been needed for a class or for your own personal desire to improve upon your skills. Either way, show that you chose to focus on building new skills during your employment gap. Employers like to see people who can take initiative.

Volunteer work can also speak to your work ethic and reveal your unique attributes. Explain what type of volunteer work you did and why you chose that organisation.

Again, there are still things to discuss even if you took personal time away from employment. Focusing on oneself and/or other family members can speak to who you are as a person. This is just as important to learn in an interview other than your qualifications.

4. Discuss why you feel you are ready to return to employment.

You can also discuss with your potential employer why you chose to return to employment. Speak to your readiness to do so. Your desire for the job and passion for the company can really shine through if you are able to highlight these reasons.

5. Focus on what you learned during the unemployment gap and what changed in your situation to make a return to employment viable.

Being unemployed does not stop one from learning and improving. You can become a strong candidate if you emphasise new skills you developed during your employment gap. You can also explain what circumstances changed that allowed you to enter the job search again. Discuss how you got there. Growth is important to highlight.

Four ways to explain your gaps in employment (with examples)

How you explain your gap in employment is dependent on the reason behind your gap in the first place. This section is broken up into examples of different career gap reasons and how to explain those in your cover letter or interview.

1. Being made redundant

Experiencing layoffs in your job is beyond your control and should not be kept from your future employer. You can better explain that you were laid off by describing the circumstances leading up to that situation. Perhaps there was a new technological advancement or system put into place that put you out of your job. Your past employer may have simply needed to cut costs.

Whatever the case, make sure that you are honest, focusing on your personal successes at your old job and how you contributed to the team. While you may have been laid off, you can still speak to old skills you can still utilise for the job you are applying for. Additionally, it is best to avoid any negative language when referring to the layoff. Employers want to see whether or not you made the most out of a bad situation, since that is one of the many things that makes a strong job candidate.

2. Changing careers/returning to school

Working full time may not have been realistic for you if you decided to return to university. If you chose to become a full-time student rather than work a full-time job, clearly explain your reason for this decision. Pursuing a higher degree of education may mean you have specific career goals for yourself. Emphasise these goals and how you are working toward that goal. If the job you are applying to will help you reach that goal, shape your skill set and experience, or is the goal in question, state that in your interview.

3. Personal reasons

Personal reasons may not seem like a valid reason for an employment gap. However, you can use personal time off to explain how you became a better worker because of it. For example, becoming a caregiver for a family member or friend can teach you new skills that can be applicable to the job you are applying for.
Personal time away from work can also include working on one’s mental health. Focusing on yourself is not selfish. Perhaps you went to therapy or focused on volunteer work instead. Be sure to highlight what you learned and how you used that time to improve upon yourself. Personal development can be just as valid (and impressive) as professional development.

4. Being fired

You can still become a successful job applicant after being fired from another job, regardless of the reason. If you were not up to par with company standards, describe how you have improved since then. Hone in on what you learned after being fired. Craft your termination as a story of lessons learned and self-improvement. Showcase how you worked toward being better, how you are better now, and the steps you are taking to avoid it happening again.

FAQ: gaps in employment

Q: What are the side effects of gaps in employment?

Gaps in employment can sometimes make it a bit of a challenge to get a new job. However, this should not be an insurmountable obstacle if you have a good foundation of skills and experiences. Build off of the work experience you have. This is why it is important to have a strong CV that can speak to the right skills needed for the job you are interested in. We can also help you get a leg up on the competition with our CV builder, which provides expert tips on a strong CV, templates and thousands of job-specific phrases that can catch your employer’s attention.

Q: How long is too long of a gap in employment?

Employers are less interested in the length of the gap than in the reason for a career gap and how recently it was more important than the duration. As long as you can speak to your readiness to return to the workplace and your passion for the job, they will likely consider your job application as closely as they would someone without an employment gap. Remember, your employment gap does not make you a less likely job candidate.

Q: How can I avoid gaps in employment on my CV?

While you can build off your employment gap, there are also ways to deemphasise those gaps on your CV. For instance, if you chose to work as a caregiver or reenter school, you can enter that in your experience section or education section respectively. This You can also choose to omit months in your dates of employment and only include the years in which you were employed. This makes gaps less obvious.

You can also choose a CV format that draws less attention to your employment gap. A functional CV format is one that focuses more on your skills rather than your work history. Functional resumes do this by highlighting what you did to learn skills and showcase them in the workplace, rather than when you demonstrated those skills. If you use CVHelp’s functional CV templates and examples, you can have a strong resume in no time that focuses on your capabilities rather than employment gaps.


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