Job Interview Question

Why do you have a big gap in your employment history?

How To Answer Interview Questions Series

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A gap on your resume can be anxiety-inducing for a job seeker, and for the employer who’s looking at them for a potential hire. But it’s really not as bad as you think.  Actually, many people have employment gaps, and they have them for a lot of reasons ranging from the poor economy and mass layoffs in recent years to family obligations of the sandwich generation.

It’s not that big of a deal. You just need an explanation. The company wants you to explain the situation to them in a way that makes sense:

“I took time to stay home with my children.”

“I took time to be with an ailing parent.”

“I took time to be available for a family member with a terminal illness.”

“I was ill / injured and took time to recover.”

“I was laid off and took time to update my skills by taking X classes.” (This is a fantastic use of your time!)

They just want you to explain it to them.  Be honest.  You never ever want to lie or try to fudge your employment dates.  They are very likely to check your references and as soon as they see that you lied, you’re chances are gone.

But don’t just give an abrupt answer like, “I took time to stay with my mother who died of cancer.”  Give them a little bit more: “Unfortunately, my mom was terminal with cancer and I wanted to spend time with her and I had the opportunity to do so. I was the person in the family who was responsible for getting her to and from doctors and taking care of her day-to-day needs.  It was a very special time.  She’s passed now, and I am ready to jump back into my career.”

Did you stay home with your kids?  Say so: “I was a stay-at-home mom.  I raised 4 kids.  I have them all in school now and I’m now at a point where I have a lot of time and a lot of energy and a lot of drive and desire to put my skill sets to use in a professional capacity.  I think this opportunity is an ideal chance for me to use them to help you _____.”

That blank needs to be filled with something like, “drive your profits”, “increase your revenue”, “decrease your costs”, “increase your customers”, “decrease your production time”, or something that sells you to them as an asset that can help them achieve their goals.

Whatever your reason, be strategic and bring it back around to what can contribute to the company.  What skills do you have? What problems can you solve? What benefits do you bring?

Give your explanation, focus on the future, stay positive, and you’ll be fine.


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