Tips to explain gaps in your employment history

Nowadays it’s not an easy deal to get a job, and the task becomes even more tough if you have employment gaps on your resume. The most recent question recruiters would ask is: “Please explain any gaps in your employment history”. Whether you took time off to travel or opted for volunteering, gaps in employment history are a little off-putting to hiring managers. It may give the wrong impression about your capacities and aspirations. However, even if your employment history isn’t perfect, you can still get a job if you know how to positively spin it off and come out looking like the best candidate for the job. 

In this article, we gather the most effective tips how to explain gaps in work history during the interview.

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Explain reasons for gap in employment 

First of all, keep calm and honest, show the recruiter there are no reasons to worry about. Give a plain and sincere answer why you weren’t employed for some period of time. Did you have some problems with your health or some personal issue took place? Did you go volunteering abroad or used that time to grow professionally by attending courses and training? Did you work on your own projects or freelance? There’s no “right” answer, explain everything in a positive and confident tone. Anything that shows you've kept yourself occupied and up-to-date with the changes in your field will only be a plus for you.  

How to explain long term unemployment? 

Sometimes your resume may show a gap of almost half a year- although recruiters propose three months and above. When asked what you did during that time you can mention charitable efforts, consultancy ventures or even further studies. Tell about any meaningful activities, such as earning of professional certification, creating a website, visiting of specialized meet ups, seminars or training. Don’t say you’re actively interviewing and about the job you almost got, it’s the red flag for any recruiter. Better focus on the results you got, and that you’ve kept current and used your time off to improve your skills and learn new technologies.

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Volunteering capabilities 

Use your volunteering experience to explain gaps. Describe your work and where you went to volunteer, what particular projects you participated. Moreover, more than 85% of recruiters put above applicants with volunteer experience on their back.

The example of the answer:

“I decided to volunteer for the children polio campaign. My task was to supervise a group of individuals who were distributing medical supplies. Being in this position boosted my management skills a lot.”

How to explain gaps due to having kids?

If you have been a stay-at-home mom, you know how hard it is to get back to work, especially if you took time off to take care of your baby. But you shouldn’t worry about it and be proud instead. Don’t make excuses and be embarrassed, tell what experience your motherhood gave you, what transferable skills you gain. It helps recruiters know what you have been up to rather than be left guessing. Tell about “activities” you were up to. Any part-time job, volunteering or charity projects you took part in, even mentioning children’s recreational activities would be great. Don’t forget, that being a mom means to be a leader with great organizational, administrative, communicational and management skills!

Your answer may sound this way:

“Being a mom is one of the best experiences I gained in my life. It taught me so many things: to be a multitasking, pressure-resistant and highly organized leader of our little family. In combination with my hard skills it only made me a better professional.” 

How to explain a gap in employment due to illness?

Sickness is a naturally occurring phenomenon and is inevitable. Even the recruiter knows that. So, if this was the reason for your career break, just go ahead and tell them. However, make it clear that now you are okay and ready to get back into employment. Nevertheless, avoid going into unnecessary details that might harm your chances to get a job.

A good example of the answer would be:

“A year back I was diagnosed with a non-aggressive tumor in my head and I had to take a break and work on my health. The treatment period has taught me to be patient and sensitive to what others are going through. And now that it is all gone, I am so excited to get back to work again.”

How to explain gaps due to personal issues or traveling?

If you took time off for some personal reasons or to deal with a family issue you might not want to share it with everyone. You may tell in general about the problem and said that it’s too personal thing you would rather keep private and not discuss in details. However, don’t be rude and mention the issue is in the past and won’t influence your work.

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If you took time for leisure or traveling, your employment gap explanation might be a little bit difficult, but everything depends on you. Stay positive and demonstrate that you had a solid work ethic before and after your hiatus. Traveling may be a great skill-boosting tool as well. Show how you grew professionally and personally. Being out of your usual booth makes you step out from your comfort zone and become more open-minded. While being on the road your definitely improve your communication skills and wider your network, become better at socializing and teamwork. You learn how to be more organized and develop good time-management skills. Changing places makes you more adaptable and improves your decision-making skills. Traveling enhances cultural awareness and as a bonus, you might learn a new language. 

Gap interview questions and answers due to joblessness

Sometimes searching for the perfect job might leave you unemployed for a long time. If that is the case then be positive and very honest about it. Tell your interviewer that you were looking for the current position but you hadn’t got it until this opportunity came up. You could put it like: “I was looking for a job in a current field that suits my skills and abilities. I got more industry certifications and practice while my time off. And now, when I saw this opportunity in your company, I aim to show what I got.”

General tips on how to explain gaps in employment history

  • Employment gaps are typical and everybody had them during their working life. Don’t freak out about it.
  • Never lie. If the recruiter will catch you being dishonest you may lose all your chances to get a job. 
  • Don't try to shroud the gap and expect recruiters won't notice it. In addition, it would look strange and ponder more questions on what else you are covering up and why. 
  • Be prepared to clarify the gap. Think about some sample answers.
  • Your answers should be clear and polite. 
  • Focus on the gained experience and improved skills during your work gap period. 
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