If you are preparing your resume or preparing for a job interview, it can be tough to explain employment gaps to prospective employers. With that said, some gaps in employment are easier to explain than others. There are dozens of different reasons why people take a break in their careers… So consider some common ones, ranked from easy to hard, on the interview-explaining scale:
Easy – Completing an Education
If you took some time away from work to complete your education, this is pretty easy to explain on your resume and during an interview. You can simply put this period in a prominent spot on your resume—and let your interviewer know how your degree or courses can help to make you a more productive member of their team. Be sure to highlight leadership opportunities and academic awards on your resume.
Medium – Raising Young Children
It should be easy enough for almost any prospective employer to be understanding when you explain to him or her that you wanted to spend time at home with your young kids. However, convincing employers that you are now fully committed to balancing your career and your parenting responsibilities may be somewhat trickier.
Fair or not, some employers may assume that you are just testing the waters and might decide to return to the nest after the first challenging day at work. During an interview, you must be able to convince an employer that the best thing that you can do for your family is to return to work.
Also, let your employer know how the skills and maturity that you developed as a parent will make you a better employee. Be sure to highlight any volunteering projects that you participated in, especially if you had a leadership role, because volunteering is work too.
Hard – Long-Term Unemployment
Explaining any gaps in employment, especially when some members of society might believe that you should have been working, can be a challenge.
According to an article in Forbes, How to Explain Your Long-Term Unemployment, you should plan to give an honest response, without elaborating any more than you have to. These days, many employers have some sympathy for people who struggled with a competitive job market. So you shouldn’t assume that a long job search after a layoff will always count against you. It won’t count against you as long as you don’t ruin your interview by badmouthing your previous employer or voicing any reluctance about returning to work.
Just let your interviewer know that you wanted to take the time to find the right job, like the one you are currently interviewing for. No matter why you didn’t work for months or years, turn the conversation towards the future and not the past. Try to fill in resume gaps with volunteering, freelancing, or any self improvement initiatives that you’ve done—so it doesn’t seem like you were just watching old movies while waiting for the phone to ring.