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How to Answer Questions About Gaps in Your Employment in a Job Interview

Updated on May 8, 2014

Mind The Gap

Questions to Address Gaps in Your Employment

During an interview, you are likely to be asked questions surrounding any gaps you have in your employment history within your resume or CV. These might be phrased as:

  • "What have you been going since you left your last job?"
  • "Why have you been out of work for so long?
  • "Tell me about what you were doing between xxxx and xxxx"
  • "Why is there a gap between these two jobs?"

However the question is posed to you, it is important to have a clear, concise and solid answer prepared to address in a positive light what could be deemed negatively by a future employer.

Whatever the reason, be sure to detail not only the reason you were unemployed but also anything positive you have gained such as new skills or experience that can be transferred to the job to which you are applying.

Fill Gaps on Your CV or Resume

The first place to start is your application. Take a look at your career history and what is currently on your CV or resume. If there are obvious gaps then it is best to fill these with information pertaining to the positive side of your unemployment.

In these tough economic climes, it is more and more common for candidate applications to show significant or several gaps in their career history whether that has been through choice or not so try not to worry that this will hamper your chances. It is very unlikely to have a negative effect as long as you can show some kind of positive activity.

Take the time to create your best ever CV or resume to account for any gaps in your employment so that the interviewer can't assume that you were doing nothing during that time. Not only will this help in interviews but will also increase your chances of being invited to more in the future. Don't give a potential employer room to speculate.

Positive Outcomes to Gaps

If you have gaps in your employment history, you are almost certainly going to be asked questions as to why. Having these gaps addressed on your CV or resume will help you prepare so that you are not caught on the hop with tricky or uncomfortable questions when face to face. It doesn’t matter what you did so long as you can fill the gaps in some way.

Be honest but let the interviewer know that you have been proactive in some way rather than them assuming you have been a slave to day time TV.

If you have been raising a family, that's a good enough reason to justify an employment gap but aim to let the interviewer recognise that you have learned some transferable skills along the way and that you have not just been knee deep in nappies and nursery rhymes. Perhaps you have learned how to schedule or multi task? What about budgeting skills? Have developed your organisational skills as a result of parenthood? I am sure you can think of something that you have improved upon or experience you have gained that could be potentially valuable to an employer. Keep it truthful, factual, concise and avoid fluffing it up.

The same goes if you have been caring for a relative. Your communication skills and patience have bound to have seen an improvement as a direct result.

Other positive outcomes to gaps in your employment could include:

  • Training courses to gain a new skill or qualification
  • Reading industry books or personal development
  • Taking part in group activities or sports
  • Relocating to another town, district or country
  • Learning a new language

Just think of something to show that you have been proactive and are a future valuable employee.

Voluntary or Unpaid Work

Never underestimate the value of voluntary or unpaid work especially if you have learned a new skill. It doesn't matter whether you were paid a salary or not it can add to the experience you have gained throughout your career. Work is work.

Did you learn a new skill such as working on a point of sale till? Perhaps you improved your communication skills? Whatever you gained from doing unpaid work make sure you highlight this throughout your CV or resume and talk about it as a positive venture during your interview.

This type of work can be interwoven into your CV or resume under work history. If you were in regular employment and did voluntary work as an additional job or if you have lots of short voluntary contracts then you might wish to have a separate heading so you can group them together which will in turn ensure your CV or resume is easier to read. Alternatively, list any voluntary or unpaid work in chronological order to fill out those all important gaps, after all, they are not gaps because you were working.

Gaps in Employment Due to Redundancy

I bet you know at least one person that has been made redundant recently. Yep, thought so. It's a sad fact that on average, workers are made redundant twice in their lifetime. Sad yes but with the positive spin, it's really common so try not to view this as a negative when interviewing for a new job.

It was the job role that was made redundant, not you. It happens to the best of the best so don't beat yourself up about it in the interview even if you are crying inside.

Keep it brief when explaining this gap. Try to bring the conversation back to the skills you have gained in all of your roles to date and the experience and transferable skills you can bring to the new position and company. Avoid at all costs saying anything derogatory about the company that made you redundant or any of the management involved in the decision making process. Take it on the chin, talk only of the positive sides of the role while you were there and think of it as a blessing in disguise as here you are interviewing for an even better job. Happy, happy, happy.

Answering Questions in the Job Interview About Gaps

Once you are in the interview, you are halfway to success, after all they must have liked your application to invite you there.

When answering job interview questions about gaps in your employment, be positive and upbeat. It's more common than you think to have periods of unemployment and the interviewer is not trying to trick you or catch you out. Talk with confidence and highlight the skills you have gained and what you have learned from the experience.

If you have been unemployed involuntary then it is crucial that you talk about what you have been doing during this time. Don’t just say that you have been applying for lots of jobs as this may make you look like you are desperate for any old job (even if you are, hide the fact) so instead allow the interviewer to see that you have had time to think about which jobs match your skills and you are more passionate than ever that this is the right career path for you.

Whatever your circumstances and reasons for being out of work, ensure the interviewer understands that you are determined to make a success of this role and you will be an asset to the organisation. The chances are, the person interviewing you has lots of gaps in their career history too.

How Confident Are You?

How do you feel now? Do you feel more confident talking about gaps in your employment history?

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