Be Upfront About Job Gaps in An Interview
By Deanna Hartley, CareerBuilder
Not every job seeker’s career path is conventional – sometimes, there are employment or other resume gaps in their timeline that may warrant an explanation to a prospective employer.
Here’s some advice from the pros on how to handle yourself during a job interview so you can portray yourself in the best light.
Be proactive so you can steer the conversation.
“Don’t wait for a hiring manager to ask you about it,” says Melissa Hirsch, senior recruiter at Betts Recruiting firm. “Include the gap in your background story when asked, ‘Tell me about yourself.’ Walk through your transitions and be open and honest. It’s not a big deal if you don’t make it one.”
Juli Smith – president of The Smith Consulting Group, which offers executive search services – agrees that being forthcoming can put you in the driver’s seat.
“The best defense is a good offense – be forthright and explain upfront about the gap in your employment so the interviewer doesn’t have to ask you,” Smith says. “This puts you in the position of steering the conversation and being able to be matter-of-fact about the gap.”
“The best advice I can give is to be perfectly honest and explain why there is a gap – things like taking care of an elderly parent or sick relative or having to attend to personal or family matters,” says Andrew Miller, president and CEO at Brain-Works, which offers executive search services. “If the reason is because you were searching and couldn’t find anything, again there needs to be a decent reason, such as, ‘I am not relocatable so that limits my options.”
Regardless of whether it seems like a setback to an employer, be candid.
“Recruiters and HR managers understand the economy was really rough around 2009,” says Jennifer Yeko, founder and recruiter of Ninja Recruiting. “If you took time off to raise a family or something – even though legally you don’t need to disclose it during an interview – it might help explain a gap.”
Have a story to accompany the gap.
You should be in a position to offer an explanation for your unemployment or resume gap.
“If you were fired because your previous company was making cuts, this clearly is not your fault,” says Adam Smiley Poswolsky, a millennial workplace expert, writer and speaker. “If you quit a previous job, why did you leave? Was the company not the right fit? Why do you believe this next opportunity will be a better fit for you, given our unique skills, interests and the impact you want to have on the world?”
It’s easy to blame a previous employer or make excuses, but skip the negative talk.
“When it comes time to address gaps on your resume, job seekers should address those gaps and the reason for those gaps positively,” says Dr. Steven Lindner, executive partner of The WorkPlace Group. “Help the recruiter and hiring manager undo any incorrect assumptions or biases help about employment gaps. Talk about how you have used your time during employment gaps to prepare yourself for your next job.”
Highlight any skills you may have acquired during your time between jobs.
Perhaps you took time off to travel or study – there can be beneficial not only to you but also to the employer.
“(For example,) did (you) volunteer full time for a while? Go traveling? Take a course that improved (your) skills and will help (you) to be an asset at this new company?” asks Valerie Streif, senior adviser at The Mentat, an organization that hires, manages, and mentors candidates. “Things like this make it seem like less of a gap in employment because (you) were still learning and developing as a person.”
Deanna Hartley is a writer for the Advice & Resources section on CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.