Many honest job seekers – even those with stellar resumes, sufficient experience and impeccable references – have gaps in their employment histories.
Some of those gaps were filled with personally-enriching experiences. Things like swimming with dolphins or backpacking through Ireland – or raising kids.
The real issue with employment gaps? Which gaps signal to the prospective employer that you’re not exactly committed to your craft; which may indicate you were exactly working hard to get back into workforce.
After all, when you’re between jobs, the proper practice is to engage in worthwhile activities: volunteering, internships, freelancing, or taking classes. What happens when you’ve done none of those things? What if you simply took a break to mentally prepare for diving into a new, demanding job once the opportunity arose?
Not everything you’ve done during your gap may have been productive, but even so, there are some things that can be used to your advantage when discussing potential employment opportunities with hiring managers.
Here’s how you can explain a longer gap in your resume and land the job you’ve been searching for:
Be Honest – Highlight Achievements During Employment Gaps
There’s no problem with owning up to being burn out or having had needed to take some time out. That’s something that everyone deals with sooner or later in life, even hiring managers. So be honest about taking some time to recompose yourself, mention a journal or a blog you’ve kept, any new publications or activities you may have engaged in. If you took time off to travel, discuss the experience: have you had the opportunity to learn a lesson that can, in any way, relate to your career? Great! Mention it, debate it, build around it.
Were you preparing for a career change? Then discuss how you collected information about this particular change during your employment gap. Be open with the hiring manager and detail how you’ve been reading, connecting with people in the industry you’re targeting and preparing for this career change. Just like people tailor their applications to make then appeal to a potential employer (here are some absolutely creative job applications, for instance), you too can explain your gap in a way that hiring managers find understandable and acceptable.
Know How to Discuss Why You Left Your Previous Job
Chances are that hiring managers will ask you about the reasons why you left your previous job long before they will ask about any employment gaps so be prepared to address this issue. An ideal answer follows the well-known KISS rule (keep it short and sweet). Now, there are acceptable reasons for discontinuing employment:
- Advancement issues: you did not find the advancement opportunities that you wished for
- Location: unreasonably long commutes/ being forced to move
- Job Security: working for a company that was not stable
- Prestige: wishing to work for a more prestigious company
- Financial reward: being underpaid for your contribution and skills
Always focus on yourself and not your previous employer.
Any change should be a result of your desire for growth and career improvement.
Confidently Explain How You’re Qualified for the Job
It’s understandable that an honest conversation about employment gaps would make you uneasy, however, confidence is paramount. Remember that resume gaps are common among job seekers and hiring managers know it. Have an answer prepared and finish with a question that moves the interview back to your capabilities and the job’s requirements:
“I’ve taken advantage of this period to better educate myself and connect with successful industry professionals who’ve gone through such a massive career shift. Getting up to speed with how the job hunting process has changed also took more than I had anticipated, but all these experiences helped me grow. Here I am, determined, persistent and re-fueled. “
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Campus to Career!
About the Author: Kirk Baumann is a passionate recruiting advocate preparing the next generation of talent for the career of their dreams. He’s a social media enthusiast who loves technology and how it’s connecting people in ways like never before. Kirk currently serves as Vice President, Career Services for Enactus United States (formerly known as SIFE). There, he helps Fortune 500 & 100 companies recruit top talent for their organizations as well as helping students, alumni, and young professionals find their dream job. Follow Kirk on Twitter!