How to Answer, "Tell Me About Your Employment Gap"
Interview Series Part 1
Many people worry that a career gap is a career death sentence. Sure, it may not be the ideal situation to be in when you’re getting asked about it at your interview- but there are ways to answer the question without bombing the interview. Rest assured that it is still possible to get hired after a gap in employment, even one that was several years long!
When your interviewer asks you to tell them about your employment gap, here is what they really want to know:
- Do you have commitment issues?
- What have you been doing all this time?
- Is your expertise out of date?
- Why has no one hired you?
- Will I regret hiring you?
Knowing this information will help you formulate an answer that should please your interviewer. Always remember to be as straightforward and honest as possible. Your interviewer will be able to tell if you’re trying to fudge the truth.
If possible, always try to tie in what you achieved during that time, volunteer work or freelancing that you did, events in your field that you participated in or how you kept your skills up to date.
Your answer to this question will all depend on why exactly you have an employment gap. Here are several reasons:
- Medical or health issues
- Caring for a sick family member
- Furthering your education
- Starting up your own company
- You were laid off
- Raising a family
- Taking time off to travel the world
These are all real situations that could have caused your employment gap, whether you chose to take time off from your career or because life just happened.
Make sure you follow these four steps when giving an answer to your interviewer:
- Keep your answer honest and simple. Personal details are not needed and don’t feel like you need to share more than you’ve prepared for- even if there is an awkward silence.
- Stay confident. You’re not there to apologize for taking time off or to justify yourself. Don’t seem defensive, remember that you’re answering a simple question.
- Emphasize that the situation is no longer a factor and won’t be a distraction from your work if they do hire you. They want to know that you’ll be committed to the job and can rely on you.
- Reiterate that you are extremely interested in the position and redirect the conversation to your relevant skills and achievements. Keep it positive.
Some example answers include:
“I took time off to raise my daughter. She started Kindergarten this year and I am excited to join the job market again working in a challenging role such as this one, that I know I’ll love.”
“My parents became ill and I moved here to help take care of them. It was nice being able to spend time with them since they’ve always been there for me. While I took care of them I was able to go to a networking event and spend some time taking courses online in which I acquired XYZ skills. My parents recently moved into assisted living so I’m able to get back into the workforce again.”
“I was given an amazing opportunity to take a year off to travel different areas around the world. During that time, I was able to learn several things about myself and develop traits such as communication, organization, and adaptability. I’m excited to put these traits to use in my next position.”
Things to remember
- Make sure you have a story to share. You are in control of your own story. Although your answer should remain simple, don’t give a bland answer like, “I was laid off and have been looking for jobs since.” Although you may have been looking for jobs, this answer will not impress your interviewer. They want to hear about what effort you’ve made, why you may have been laid off and what learning outcomes resulted from it during your time away from your career.
- Don’t blame others or talk about them negatively for why you’ve been out of work. Even if you quit a job because of a toxic coworker or boss, it’s best to leave that out and spin your answer to explain what you realized about yourself as a professional.
Giving a clear, honest answer that explains your time away from your career and redirects the conversation to skills you’ve picked up during your time off will be sure to ease your interviewer’s concerns.
Tip: If it works out in your favor, you can change your dates of employment on your resume to only show the year rather than both the month and year.