Let me start with good news: They read your resume before inviting you for an interview. They are aware of the gaps in your employment history, and do not consider them a showstopper. If it was a case, they would not invite you for an interview. And what’s the bad news?
If there is a gap longer than a few months, they will almost certainly ask about it while talking to you face to face. And I understand that some reasons can be hard to explain, and about some you’d prefer not talking at all (for example if you suffered from a depression, or were lazy and decided to live from the money of your parents, instead of looking for a job).
Let’s have a look at a variety of reasons for an employment gap, and how should you explain each one, to make the right impression on the hiring managers.
Gap year, longer break after you graduated from high school/college
This one is quite easy. You’d spent long years studying, preparing for your professional career. You knew that once you started working, it would be difficult to get out of that train. And while you are happy about your career choice, and looked forward to having the job once you left school, you still decided to make one last long holiday.
But you didn’t spend your gap year blindly moving from one hostel to another, getting wasted each evening, celebrating some twisted ideals of youth. On the contrary. You used this time to reflect on the world and your place in it, to get to know different cultures and people, and to make sure what you want to do with your life.
Once the year was over (or is over, if that’s your case), you were clear about your intentions and dreams. Now you interview for a job with them, because that’s exactly the choice you made while reflecting on stuff, during your gap year.
You wanted to get a job, but could not find any
This one is also quite easy, and I suggest you to be honest. Maybe you aimed too high, or struggled with your interviewing skills, or just weren’t lucky enough in the interviews. Or you got unemployed in a bad time, when the economy was in recession and jobs were sparse. Always competing with dozens of other candidates, you just never ended up the best one. And second best is not enough in the interviews.
But you never gave up and eventually got the job (if we talk about an employment gap from the past), or you continue trying, interviewing with them (if we talk about a current employment gap).
Actually this is a good answer also when you do not want to share your real reasons with the interviewers.
You ran (or tried to run) your own business, but failed to make it
This is something you should never be ashamed of. Other people may ridicule you (behind your back), but they probably do so only because they never had the courage you had--to try to change something in your life, to take risks, to follow your dream. It’s their envy speaking.
What’s more, you learn many priceless lessons while running a small business (or while trying to run one). Experienced hiring managers are aware of it, and will consider it a plus.
The only thing they may question is your readiness to rejoin the workforce, and resume your habit of going to work and having a boss, early morning alarms and stuff. Ensure them that while you enjoyed the journey of an entrepreneur, and learned a lot, it eventually wasn’t your cup of coffee (or it couldn’t feed your family), and you are more than ready to resume the old working habits.
You were depressed, or experienced some other mental issue
Only people who were depressed know how it feels. One loses interest in everything. Even if they want to get a job, it is impossible for them to really try in the interviews and they end up failing.
The fact that depression and mental issues are ever more prevalent in the Western world is both good and bad news for you. It’s good because employers have understanding for such things.
It’s just important to ensure them that you got our of your depression–with the help of a psychologist, psychiatrist, changing your diet, lifestyle, finding a new partner who gave your life a new meaning, etc.
You have this big gap in employment history, because you simply weren’t in a state to work. But now it’s behind you, and you haven’t lost your skills or knowledge of this or that thing–maybe you have to polish it a bit, and it will take you some time, but you are sure you will eventually succeed to handle the job.
Burnout and career change
This one is little bit similar to the previous one, and again something that is quite common in 21st century. Times when people had the same job for 30 years, or stayed in the same company for lifetime, are gone forever.
And many things are advertised falsely, companies and organizations promising you something that never materializes in reality. Even in this case I suggest you to be honest–and to share detail with the interviewers. For example:
I tried my best for XYZ company, believing that I was contributing to something big, that we were working on innovations that can change the world. But eventually I was just a clerk sitting at a computer, doing simple financial analysis and the same transactions day after day. Eventually I experienced a burnout, and could not stand the corporate routine anymore. As you can see on my resume, I didn’t look for a job for more than a year, and I eventually changed my career completely.
The key is to ensure them that the dark period is behind you. You regained your motivation, know what you want to do in life, and why you apply for the job with them.
You didn’t get a job because you were lazy, or parasitized on someone else’s money
This may sound bizarre for someone who never experienced a similar situation, but I’d easily find ten people in my circles who had gaps in employment history for this reason.
Someone found a rich lover who paid for their rent and expenses, and they had no reason to look for work. Another one had rich parents, they spoiled them as a kid, and were just too lazy to do anything in the house, let alone in work.
Another guy was addicted to computer games, and since his parents didn’t mind, he simply stayed homed all day long, playing computer, living off his parents. But eventually any of those didn’t last forever…
If anything similar is your case–and no reason to be ashamed here, because all of us have some highs and lows in life, trying to find our way, and what makes us happy, I suggest you to not tell the truth in the interviews.
You can either say that were trying to get a job but were not successful in the interviews–at least not for the jobs you wanted to get. Be sure to prepare names of five different companies where you applied back then–just to make your answer sound credible.
Or you can refer to mental issues (depression), or a transition period in your life, when you tried to figure out what to do with your future.
In both cases, ensure the interviewers that such a period is over now, you know what you want from life, and your job application with them makes a perfect sense for you.
Conclusion, bottom line
To have a gap in employment history (or even more of them) is not anything special in the third decade of 21st century. The world offers us many options nowadays. Sometimes we cannot choose, and sometimes we cannot handle the pressure and the expectations. Or we want to prolong our youth, when it is finally so easy and cheap to travel.
As long as you manage to explain your gap, and ensure the hiring managers that you overcame your problems/mental blocks/uncertainties, and are ready to resume the working routine, they should not see it as a problem.
The only case when you should not tell them the entire truth is when you stayed home because you lived off someone else’s money–your mother, your lover, anyone else. In such a case you should make up a better story….
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- 15 most common interview questions – Can you tell us more about yourself? Where do you see yourself in five years time? What are your salary expectations? Learn how to deal with some questions that you may face while interviewing for any job.