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How to explain the gap in your resume

career pivot interview tips job hunting Dec 29, 2022
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Asking people about their gaps in employment should be put to rest – especially given the pandemic and the lockdowns people had to endure. 

 

Unfortunately, employers are still asking this question and candidates get nervous that their unemployment, mental health needs, or care responsibilities will keep them from getting the job they want. 

 

A couple of months of unemployment don’t usually ring alarm bells. Longer stretches of time could. 

 

The most important thing about explaining gaps in your employment is being honest. With the power of the internet, social media connections, and industries that talk, you want to assume that the hiring company will figure out why you were not working if there is a serious reason.

 

You can explain gaps on your resume with a short story in three parts:

  • Explain the gap
  • Share what you learned during your time away
  • Assure the employer that it will not be a concern in the future 

 

Here are some common reasons for gaps in a resume:

 

Pregnancy

If you have just given birth or are ready to come back to work after your parental leave, employers will understand family planning.

 

However, they could be concerned about you leaving again – whether they have a good parental leave plan or not. But remember, discriminating against someone on the basis of pregnancy is illegal. Since it will be hard to prove you are passed up for a job because you plan on having more kids in the future, it’s best not to mention it. Do not offer information about how many kids you have or their ages, as the interviewer could fill in the blanks in their head about what your family planning could look like based on your answers. If you are asked directly, there is no harm in lying and saying you want to stop at one, two, or how many kids your last pregnancy gave you. 

 

Physical injury 

If you have recovered from a physical injury, employers will be happy to learn you are back on your feet. In the back of their mind, they may be wondering about how the aftermath will affect your performance. Or they may just ask you themselves. Either way, you can reassure them in a number of ways:

  • Written clearance of work from a doctor
  • Proof of continuation or completion of physical therapy 
  • Brief explanation of your recovery: medication you are on that is relevant to how it may affect your work, how you habits have changed since your recovery, things you can do 

 

If you want to impress them and you took some time to upskill while you were unemployed, emphasize what courses you took or how you stayed in tune with developments in the industry. This shows them that while you were not on payroll, you were still growing as a professional and you are ready to hit the ground running as you return to the workforce. 

 

Caring for a relative

This shows your passion for family and aptitude for hard work. If you are comfortable, you can demonstrate how you learned and established procedures to support someone else, which is a testament to your hard work and dedication. 

 

Again, if you spent some time on courses or were able to develop a new hobby during some of your down time while caring for a sick child or parent, discuss it in the interview. Many hobbies take time management skills, conflict resolution, discipline, creativity, attention to detail, and more.

 

To ensure your employer of your availability in the future, you can tell them of your caregiving schedule or the new arrangements that take work off your plate. 

 

Education

Having a gap in employment for education is quite simple. Your new certificate, diploma, or degree will speak for itself. 

 

Source: Photo by RUT MIIT on Unsplash

 

Job Seeking

Having a gap in employment because you were looking for a job is understandable. While you explain this, talk about what you learned while networking. Maybe you were able to connect with people who shared the same skills and you worked on a project together – share those results. Maybe you connected with people who had a totally different skillset – talk about what that taught you and what it could bring to the job you’re doing. 

 

Maybe you enrolled in some LinkedIn courses – download those completion certificates and tell and talk about them during your interview.

 

Discuss a new hobby you picked up and how getting better at it parallels your work ethic.

 

Share about a side hustle you started and what you learned, accomplished, and hope to achieve.

 

Even your failed interview processes can be something you share about. If you interviewed with other companies in the same field as the one you’re applying for, discuss what you learned about them during that interview research process, what it taught you about yours and that company, and how it could help you in the work you do at the company you’re currently interviewing with.

 

Mental health

Mental health breaks are becoming more common, especially given the global trauma we went through. The stigma surrounding mental health makes it difficult to discuss, but being aware of your mental state is a strength – even if that mental state was once poor. 

 

Explaining that you were unable to be the best version of yourself at work due to your mental health and you took the necessary steps to improve, demonstrates responsibility. You can explain that you gave your employer adequate notice. You can briefly share the work you and your medical professionals did on yourself that makes you confident in your ability to return to work. Convince the hiring company that you will be able to follow through with your responsibilities. Maybe this means telling them how often you attend therapy, getting a referral note from a medical health professional, disclosing that you’re on effective medication – whatever you are comfortable with. 

 

Travel

Travelling over working seems superficial at first, but if explained well, it can do wonders. 

 

Did you travel to get more clarity about who you are and what you wanted to do in the world? Did you want to increase your cultural awareness? Did you want to challenge yourself? Did you go to fix your mental health? Did you desire a new lifestyle? 

 

All these answers demonstrate that you have foresight, you are a visionary. It proves your attention to detail and your ability to challenge yourself. If you learn a new language abroad, it shows your discipline. Travel experience can also increase your ability to talk to different people.

 

Travel can also ensure employers that you’re here to stay. Since you’ve shaken the travel bug out of you and you have reached a place of more certainty, you’re ready to launch yourself into your work. Don’t shy away from how travel made you a better person and better employee.

 

Criminal record

If a job requires you to do a police background check, they probably already know you have something on your record, but they may not know what you have been charged with or convicted of. You only have to tell employers about a criminal record for government positions or jobs that involve children. 

 

You can choose how much detail you want to provide, but it is important to emphasize your reform. What you learned from the experience is more important than the experience itself, because you are not your past. You have to prepare yourself for the fact that some employers’ judgement will be clouded by your criminal record, but that does not mean you cannot offer anything of value.

 

Explain your talents and achievements before your record to remind employers that you didn’t lose those skills. Express your remorse, what you gained from the experience, and any proof of progress such as notes from medical professionals or proof community service. 

 

People can make mistakes and still have a full life. Hopefully you can find an employer that believes it.

 

Job hopping

Job hopping doesn’t have a horrible reputation anymore. According to HR professionals, 51% of employees job hop once a year and 34% employees switch jobs every two years. You’re in pretty good company. 

 

Explain why you were changing jobs – bigger challenges, new career aspirations, more work-life balance, change in location. As long as you don’t completely throw your old companies under the bus, job hopping can be a sign of professional development, discernment, and intelligence. 

 

Gaps in employment are not inherently bad, so don’t let employers make you feel this way. Everyone is on their own professional journey. As long as you are a strong employer at each position, you should be able to take on a new one when you’re ready to work again. 









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