How would you explain unemployment gaps in a job interview?
So you’ve been unemployed or have taken some time out from the working world. How do you respond to this if you are asked about it in the interview? Can you respond confidently and squash any concerns that the employer may have in this regard?
Some employers will read into long gaps between jobs and think that there might be something wrong with a candidate, they may not see it as just time out.
If you want the job, you will need to convince the interviewer and make them feel comfortable about those gaps in your resume.
Here are a few tips on how to do just that:
- See this as an opportunity. It’s better to be asked than the interviewer makes assumptions. There are all sorts of legitimate reasons to be off work for a period of time and this is your opportunity to discuss them and clear all doubt.
- Be prepared. Have a sufficient, but plausible answer prepared and practice it out loud until you sound relaxed, confident, and genuine.
- Make it Short & Sweet. Make sure you answer the questions sufficiently and move right onto something more positive. A good answer can turn into “too much information” very quickly if you’re nervous and keep rambling on, so keep it short and to the point.
- Keep it positive. Don’t think or say anything negative about your unemployment or your former employer. It never looks good. If you were made redundant for example, start by saying ” I saw this as an opportunity to ….”
- Show that you have used this time to be productive. Have you attended any industry events, or even volunteered to help organise them? Perhaps you’ve used your skills for some charity work. Have you signed up for any online or short courses in your career field? You could say you took the time to study to increase your skillset.
- Explain what you have learned or gained in this time. Every experience in life teaches us something, no matter how good or bad. Look for the positive in it all and spell out informal learning from your time off. Did the break help you focus? Did you gain more skills or improve your network whilst unemployed?
- Be prepared to explain voluntary unemployment. If you resigned rather than being made redundant your interviewer will probably wonder why? Have an answer ready, such as taking a sabbatical to plan your future, or to deal with a family situation.
Here are a few sample answers you can use:
“Unfortunately I was made redundant in March 2014 and rather than starting a new role straight away, I took the opportunity to pursue my passion for Digital Marketing, so I started a blog and did a few online courses”
“The gap you see in my CV was due to caring for my aging parents who have been ill for some time. Given the level of care they required, I made the decision to take a break from work in order to care for them full time.”
“Following my redundancy I invested time in my professional development and attended various networking functions to exchange and form new contacts and keep on top of the latest industry developments and trends.”
“I have taken the opportunity to brush up on my skills by studying online full time during this break. As a result I have extended my knowledge and skills.”
It is all about being prepared. Know what you’re going to say, practice it out loud and on friends, so you will be confident in front of the interviewer.
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