During your career, there may be times when, for whatever reason, you need to take some time off. This could be by choice, for instance, if you had a child, had a sabbatical to travel the world, or if you went back to school to get your education and knowledge levels up. However, it could also be for other reasons that you had no influence on. For instance, if you got laid off or you got fired from your job and you needed time to find new work.
When you’re going to a job interview, and your resume get’s brought up, it’s common that interviewers ask about your work history. If there’s a gap in your employment history or if there are years in between that aren’t accounted for, you should be able to explain why things and what situations occurred.
So, how do you explain an employment gap on your resume? This all depends on your situation at the time and the circumstances under which it happened. Prepare yourself for this question and get all the information you need in this blog.
Follow-up questions an interviewer can ask:
- Why has no one hired you?
- Do you have commitment issues?
- Do you get along with your colleagues?
- Will your references tell the same story as you?
Why is the interviewer interested in employment gaps?
If you have a gap in your resume, you can almost be sure that it will come up during a job interview. There are many reasons why you could decide to take a break from working. Therefore, no matter what the specific reason is, you should be able to discuss this during an interview when asked about it.
The interviewer is, of course, interested in the reasons why you were unemployed at a certain point in time. Look at it from the point of view of the interviewer. For him or her, certain employment gaps could be a warning sign or a red flag. It’s up to you to think of your reasons prior to the interview so that you fully utilize this opportunity to explain what happened and that you’re ready to move forward. If the interviewers decide to proceed with you in the hiring process, they need more information to ensure they will not regret it.
For the interviewer, two things are important. Firstly, the period of time in which you were not employed. Secondly, how long have you been away from participating in the workforce? For instance, if you had been unemployed for two months fifteen years ago, chances are that the interviewer won’t worry about it. However, if your unemployment gap was more recent and for a longer period of time, you need to have a solid answer ready.
Explaining gaps in employment in your job interview
There’s no reason to try to hide gaps when they are visible on your resume. Every person has to deal with employment gaps, so don’t worry too much about it. If you, for instance, experienced a merger with your company and there were layoffs, just explain this. Don’t worry about a gap of a couple of months to half a year. Explain the gap and the reason for it.
If you have an employment gap of over a year, you must be able to substantiate why but also indicate that you have been busy that year. For example, you can tell the interviewer that you did temporary, seasonal, or volunteer work, along with the time that you have spent looking for jobs. Also, don’t forget to include that you stayed active and kept your market and industry knowledge up while being unemployed, if applicable. Ensure that you have a story on what kept you busy and going during that gap.
You can follow these steps when preparing your answers to explain any gaps in your employment history:
- Give a concise and brief description of the situation. There’s no need to include too many personal details; the interviewers are more interested in the main facts about the reasons for unemployment.
- Just like the explanation of the situation is important, it’s vital to explain that the situation ended or that it’s not a factor anymore. You need to emphasize this to ensure that the interviewer is not worried about if you need to take another break from working (for whatever reason) anytime soon. Basically, they want to hear that you’re 100% available if they hire you for the position that you applied for.
- Always steer your answer towards a positive endnote in which you emphasize your interest in the position once more. By doing so, you put the focus back on your job interview and the job you’re applying for.
Sample reasons for having an employment gap
There could be, of course, hundreds of reasons for having an employment gap on your resume. Below we set out some sample reasons:
Reasons for an employment gap:
- Taking time off to start your own business
- Trying to start as a freelancer
- Taking time off due to a medical or health issue (or taking care of a sick family member)
- Going back to study or any other additional education/professional training
- Moving to another country/state and looking for work
Other reasons for an employment gap:
- You’re laid-off
- You got fired
- You were actively looking for a job but had trouble finding one
Examples of how to explain employment gaps in a job interview
Below you can find some general answer examples to indicate how you could structure your answer. However, make sure that you describe a situation with the core details so that the interviewer get’s an understanding of your choices.
‘During that year, I took some time off work to take care of my twin sons. Now that they are two years old, I’m excited to start working again. During my break from work, I picked up a study in business management because I had more flexible hours to study in the evening. Besides getting my degree, I also worked on my industry experience requirements to make sure my certification stayed valid. I’m ready to put my skill development into practice.’
‘I spent fourteen years working in sales, with the last 9 of those years employed as a senior team manager. After the company outsourced the sales departments overseas a couple of years ago, our location was shut down, and my whole team was laid off. Since that closing, I have finished (insert training, course, or education) to improve the skills that I need for a job in the (insert industry) industry.’
‘I was laid off three months ago. Immediately after, I started my job search, and I’m looking for an administrative manager position now to advance my career further. I have already had several job interviews, but I’m still in doubt if I have already found the right company for me yet.
I’m looking for an opportunity in which I’m really involved in the planning and coordinating of the administrative procedures, but also the management of the schedules and deadlines. When I read the job description, those points really stood out to me and are one of the reasons I decided to apply for this position. Could you please tell me more about that and the responsibilities daily?’
Common Job Interview Questions & Answers
Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!
- Career Change
- Career Goals
- Conflict Resolution
- Creative Thinking
- Cultural Fit
- Customer Service
- Growth Potential
- Honesty & Integrity
- Job Satisfaction
- Entry-Level & No experience
- Prioritization & Time Management
- Situational & Scenario-based
- Stress Management
- Telephone Interview
- Work Ethic