A period of time when you haven’t been a part of the workforce is an employment gap. This gap could be due to a number of reasons but the most common ones are children, involuntary unemployment/layoffs, or pursuing a new career path by attending college or university courses.
Employers are wary when hiring candidates with employment gaps in their resume. Think about it this way – your resume is being stacked up against more qualified candidates who have been growing and upskilling. Why would someone want to hire a person with employment gaps when they’ve got better options coming through? This is why explaining to your employer about your employment gap is crucial, without oversharing or blowing it out of proportion, of course.
What is Employment Gap?
In simple terms, when you don’t work for a company or an employer or don’t earn money by working full-time, that period of time or tenure is dubbed an employment gap. Stay-at-home parents who raise kids at home also count under the employment gap. If you freelance, however, that doesn’t count since you’ve got your projects paying the bill but some employers who don’t have a good understanding of it may ask you questions.
Master Your Employment Gap Explanation With These Tips and Examples
Ready to get back to work after a long break? Well, be prepared to answer a few questions. Here are some of our tops tips to help with that:
1. Avoid Oversharing
Your employer wants to know the core facts about your unemployment period. Don’t go into too much detail. Stick to the facts, be brief, and don’t share what’s more than needed.
2. Explain Why You Quit
Although you don’t want to divulge too many details, you also don’t want to under-share. Aim for the right balance. For example, if your kids wouldn’t leave you and your partner was having a tough time staying back, you could say you had to take the responsibility until they grew older as neither your parents nor was a babysitter were available.
3. Show Your Skills
The tasks you undertook while on unemployment will be the highlight of your explanation. If you’ve done any certification courses, worked on milestone freelance projects, or if you simply picked up a few soft skills that match the job’s requirements in different ways – show it. Showing has more than talking when it comes to nailing your interviews.
4. Explain Why Now
Your employer might ask why you want to get back to the workforce now after all these years. You should have a big WHY in your mind to answer that. For example, maybe you want to move up your career because it would bring you personal fulfilment and now that you have the time and chance, you’ve applied.
5. Show Your Confidence
Nobody likes a person who isn’t confident. When you explain your reasons for the gap, don’t be sorry or attempt to justify. You don’t have to – remember that. Just be honest, crisp, and show that you’ve not merely wasted your time.
6. Get Referrals
One of the best tips for explaining employment gaps in your resume is – referrals. If you’re currently in a job, talk to your boss or manager about having side-jobs during your time off. They’ll put in a good word for you when you’re back in action, that’s why. And having someone else vouch for you – is a whole another feat.
Sample Examples to Explain Employment Gap During a Job Interview
Here are some examples of how you’d explain your gap-
“I had to take care of my kids because nobody was available. My ageing parents have health issues and couldn’t be there for them while my hubby was the sole breadwinner. Now, we’ve finally found someone who clicked with our kids and it’s been a few months since I resigned my role as the primary caregiver which makes me available.”
Caring for a kid isn’t easy and this is one of the most valid employment gap reasons. Just make sure to highlight the skills you picked up during your free time (relevant to the job) and make sure you sound like an in-demand candidate.
“I was retrenched from my last job a few months ago due to the company’s downsizing. But I didn’t wait idly and resumed my job search. I’ve finally found the right one and think I’m a good fit for it. My skills match what your team is looking for and I think I’d fit right in considering I’ve been developing good communication skills, upskilling myself, and I am also a team player. Can you tell me more about what the role entails..?”
This explanation not only gives your employer an insight into how you take things but what they like is honesty and clarity. Downsizing is an inevitable situation beyond your control and the fact you’ve resumed your search while continuing to improve your skills will make a mark. And asking for details about the job just adds weight to your confidence which is what employers look for.
Explaining Employment Gap in Your Resume
You don’t have to dive into too much detail when listing your employment gap in your CV but you do have to mention a few key points-
In the summary section, you want to list out in bullet points what your key strengths are and blend those with the expertise you’ve gained during your time off. For example, if you worked in IT Consulting and recently finished a grad program in fitness and nutrition, you could apply for roles in the fitness industry and highlight your previous experience as an IT consultant for that role.
In the Educational Section
If you’ve recently completed a degree, a course, or some certification tied to academia of some sort, put it right at the top of your resume. This justifies your employment gap solidly.
Gaps in your career chronology section stand out, glaringly. Don’t cover them up. Instead, list out any freelance projects, side-jobs, or any volunteer work you’ve done. It makes a difference.
How Can You Overcome Employment Gap?
Overcoming your employment gap is simple, but if you do it right-
1. Participate in Conferences and Meetups
These are events for connecting and networking with people. You can connect with potential employers from the industry you want to step into.
2. Do Freelance Work
Also tied to our last point, freelance opportunities technically don’t count as unemployment gaps. But if your employer doesn’t understand, you can show him/her some of your projects and prove that you were actively working and growing, not just wasting time.
3. Go for Volunteer Work
Volunteer work can be life-changing when done right. And it’ll give you bragging rights on your CV when you help change the world or change it yourself.
4. Stay Connected
Stay connected with your former employers and colleagues. See if you can work on short-term or side jobs with them during your downtime. This will help bridge the gap.
Questions Employers Might Have About Your Employment Gap
Here are some employment gap interview questions you will get asked and a bit about how to go about answering them.
1. Why Is Nobody Hiring You?
You have to show yourself in a positive way and give reasons to make the employer feel at ease. Don’t give crude explanations or get emotional about your CV because that’ll show your vulnerability as a strong candidate.
2. Why Were You Fired?
This is a good question. And the good answer is, be honest. No, don’t talk about in-house fights or anything. Be professional about it and explain the overall reason – such as a project getting cancelled, removal of teams due to company downsizing, etc.
3. How Good Are Your Professional Decision-Making Skills?
This question will be tied to the fact why you left your previous job. Here, you can explain why your last employment didn’t work out and why you left it. If you left of your own accord and aren’t getting any leads for employment, you’re definitely doing something wrong. But if it’s just according to the current market and your offers before your layoff were strong, be sure to showcase them to make sure it’s just a temporary slump and nothing to worry about.
4. How Committed Are You?
If you quit your last job because you didn’t like your boss, the work culture or your colleagues – your employer is going to probe you with this question. Commitment issues could stem from teamwork and interpersonal skills, so make sure to strike a good rapport with your interviewer so that you don’t have to delve into that area. Any other long-term jobs you’ve done before, list them out to show that you are truly committed and that your last one was an exception.
5. What Will Your References Tell About Your Story?
Don’t seek out references at the last minute. Build good relationships with them from your previous job and ask them to vouch for you. This will make a solid difference and back up what you’re saying, genuinely.
Employment gaps aren’t fancy but sometimes life happens and you have them. The tips above will help you in your next interview and don’t worry too much about prepping. Just be yourself, be positive and confident, and add value to the conversation which gives your employer a reason to hire you. Good luck!