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Have you ever been caught off guard in an interview when they ask, “It looks like there is quite a gap in employment on your resume, what were you doing during this time?” If yes, you’re not alone. Whether you were let go from your last job and couldn’t find work for months, or you decided to adventure off into a year of travel, this question can be a tricky one to answer. To avoid scaring off a potential employer, you need to be prepared with a professional response. In this blogpost, we’ve outlined the best ways to answer the 4 most common reasons for resume gaps.

You Lost Your Job

You may feel embarrassed to talk about being let go, but it definitely does not mean you’re an automatic write-off as a potential candidate. Being let go is fairly common in the workforce today due to things like company budget cuts. The most important thing to remember is to NEVER bad mouth your past employer! Be honest in the interview, but rather focus on the work you did and things you achieved while in that role.

Did you gain valuable knowledge and experience when working on projects? Drive the conversation towards what you achieved while working for the company.

Were your previous employers happy with your work? Make sure to mention your previous roles and if your past manager is listed as a reference, tell the interviewer they would be able to reinforce your work ethic and abilities.

Keywords to consider: achievements, ability to overcome, progress, adaptability to change, abilities, positive mindset.

 

You Went Back to School

This is probably the easiest reason to explain, and can actually be a huge advantage! Employers like to see candidates who continue to push themselves, are eager to learn and grow in their career. Even if you went back to school because you were lost and had no idea what you wanted to do – you went back to school instead of deciding to continue working in a career that wasn’t right for you.

What courses did you take that relate to the job? Highlight specific skills or qualifications that you gained, how you will use them, and how they will help you in the position.

Did you join any groups or attend networking events? Talk about what you did to apply the skills you learned, even if it was just the role you played in a group project.

Keywords to consider: career path, qualifications, goals, professional development, networking.

 

You had Health Issues

Your health is of the utmost importance, and any good employer knows and will most likely respect this. Don’t worry about having to get into the details, the interviewer won’t expect you to (and would probably prefer you didn’t). Prepare an explanation that you’re comfortable with discussing and focus on the fact that you are recovered and excited to get back into the workforce.

Did you seek the help you needed? Talk about what you did to improve the situation, and how you we’re able to be resourceful (this shows you are about action!).

Were your health issues impacting your work? If you needed to quit your job, the answer must be yes. Discuss your work ethic and how you care about the quality of what you produce. Use this to drive the conversation back towards your qualifications for the job.

Keywords to consider: moving forward, next stage, recovery, positive outlook, future, strength.

 

You Went Traveling

Travelling is a huge learning experience, and can give you extremely valuable skills that can carry into any career. There is a strong difference between going on vacation and going travelling, so don’t talk about lying on a beach in the sun! Focus on how your travels helped you develop as a person and what specific skills you’ve gained. Your interviewer may even be eager to share stories of their travel experiences, which is a great way for them to discover a common interest and help remember you.

Did you have any scary travel issues? Talk about how you were able to overcome them calmly and rationally (even if you were really freaking out and ready to buy a ticket home).

Did you explore different cultures? Discuss what you learned and how you we’re able to adjust to changes in your environment (this shows you’re able to be flexible, you’re open minded and probably easy to work with!).

Keywords to consider: personal growth, culture, defined purpose, stress management.

No matter what the reason for your employment gap, there is opportunity to overcome any interviewer’s doubts. If an employer still thinks you’re too much of a risk – it’s their loss! Want to be even more prepared for your next interview? Check out our Phone Interview Tips blogpost!

 

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