The Dos & Don’ts of Employment GapsJuly 1st, 2013 | Articles, Interviewing, Job Search | No Comments »
When you’re asked during an interview about an employment gap in your work history, whether it’s a few months or a few years, you should always confidently respond with the truth. Any flights of fancy or contrite apologies will only encourage the hiring manager to pass over you for a more credible & self-assured candidate. Even though you want to be honest, here are a few things you might want to downplay when asked this question.
1.) You decided to marathon Days of Our Lives from the beginning. When you have an employment gap for any period of time, you never want to give the idea that you were basically two steps away from a catatonic state. Whether you were staring at your soaps on a 60 inch LCD screen or spending hours flicking birds at pigs to beat your all time high score, you don’t want to talk about this to anyone (especially not your interviewer).
If you have that type of free time, you need to be doing something that keeps your mind sharp. Read hot industry blogs. Get involved with the industry dialog on web forums. If you can afford it, recertify yourself through online or university courses. That way, even if you spend some time vegging out, you’ll have at least created some balance and kept yourself from becoming a rust-stained relic.
2.) You became a hermit in your crawl space. An employment gap does its worst to your reputation when it seems you only did it to retract socially. If the only people you interact with are the pizza guy as he delivers your daily victuals and your family members as they desperately tell you (yet again) to shave, you’ve missed a great opportunity. Some solitude can be rewarding but an employment gap should be a time to make connections.
By taking this time to network with a greater number of professionals, you can extend your connections throughout the job market grape vine and expose yourself to a variety of ripe job opportunities to pick from when applying. At the very least, you’ll broaden the number of people that you can talk shop with during your job hiatus.
3.) You “just worked on you.” Sometimes, we need to take care of personal things that prevent us from dedicating our full attention to full time employment. There’s no shame in that. The best thing is to explain it in an unambiguous way that shows both your motivation and your complete confidence in the decision.
If you can spare the time during your leave from work, there is yet another way to diminish the stigma of an employment gap: take on a project for a non-profit. Find a cause that you care about and volunteer your professional services to that organization. In most instances, you can work on this type of project around your other obligations. Better yet, you can keep your portfolio strong, build up your network connections, and keep your skills sharp to the touch.
In the end, your honesty is the key to any answer to a question about your employment gap but you should know exactly what to highlight. If you can highlight the great things you’ve done during your employment gap, you’ll not only leave the hiring manager impressed but you may even give him or her reason to forget it altogether.
by James Walsh