Blog, Interview Skills
How to Deal with Employment Gaps
The lives of the most fascinating people you know are never straight, logical narratives; often, they’re full of cul-de-sacs, random loops, and odd holes. They make for a life well-lived, but they don’t always translate well on a resume.
Gaps in employment can lead an interviewer to assume the worst. If you don’t have an adequate explanation, their minds could turn towards personality problems or illegal activity. With COVID-19 destroying more than 22 million jobs, it’s likely that you’ll have some explaining to do. Here are some ways to address employment gaps on a CV.
Be Aware of Employment Gaps
It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with your own work history before going into the interview — you’d be surprised what you can forget. If there was a period of unemployment in the last ten years that lasted more than six months, that could be viewed as an employment gap.
Shorter gaps are usually ignored. Employers understand that the market can be difficult, but you should have an explanation ready for anything longer.
It’s also important that you never try to hide or cover up an employment gap when composing a CV. Employers are used to people trying to hide things and are typically good at spotting them.
Potential employers know, especially in this day and age, that very few people graduate from university and immediately start working. It’s possible the hiring manager had a bit of a strange journey themselves.
If you’ve gotten to the interview stage, it means that something you included on or with your resume made them interested to meet you. You likely won’t lose the opportunity due to an employment gap, provided you know how to explain it.
Make Explicit What Kind of Gap It Was
There are two kinds of employment gaps: voluntary and involuntary. An involuntary gap could be related to a health crisis, a recession, or anything else beyond your control. Obviously, these are more easily explained. No one would penalize you for having to go in for surgery or taking care of an infirm relative — so long as it is the truth.
Voluntary gaps may seem like they’re harder to explain. This depends often on how much you tell them. Just as you want involuntary gaps to sound empathetic, make the voluntary ones sound empowering.
Just saying that you chose to leave a position (rather than you were asked to) to focus on an attainable goal (you don’t want to lead them to think you have delusions of grandeur) is an acceptable answer. It also suggests a level of confidence that might impress.
Make the Gap a Non-Issue
If you don’t have an adequate explanation, make it immaterial — “yes, but” in your otherwise impressive life. Yes, you weren’t employed, but you were busy improving and adding skills that make you all that more desirable.
Although the pandemic has made employment gaps more common, the art of dealing with them is still largely unchanged.
Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer