Nowadays, finding a new job can become quite a hassle, and it doesn’t help if you have not been working for a while and need to get back into work mode. In such cases, you may definitely be worried about the obvious employment gap in your resume.
Questions about employment gaps are often inevitable during job interviews. This is because many recruiters want to know why you weren’t working for a while and what you did during that period.
While this may sound scary, such questions are definitely not a bad sign. However, it’s always great to prepare for them so that you don’t get caught off guard. Keep reading to find out why employers ask the employee gap question and how you can answer it like a pro!
- Any unemployment period that lasts for more than six months is considered an employment gap.
- Employment gaps can happen either voluntarily or involuntarily. In essence, this means that you either quit on your own initiative or received a layoff notice from your previous employer.
- To properly answer employment gap interview questions, prepare a sample answer beforehand and be honest.
- While answering, mention what you’ve learned during the break and show that you still worked on becoming your best self even though you weren’t officially employed.
What Are Employment Gaps?
An employment gap is any period of six months or more during which you weren’t employed.
Employment gaps can occur either voluntarily or involuntarily. This means that you either decided to leave the company you had worked for by yourself or got laid off or fired by your previous employer.
Some of the most common reasons that can lead to such gaps are:
- Caring for a sick family member
- Taking care of your children (generally and as a new parent)
- Experiencing physical or mental health issues
- Continuing with studies
- Being unable to find a suitable job yourself
Why Are Employers Asking About Employment Gaps?
When employers ask you to talk about your employment gap, they may want to know the following:
- When did this gap occur?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Did you leave voluntarily or involuntarily?
- What skills and knowledge have you gained during this time frame?
If you left your previous job position voluntarily, the interviewer will probably want to know what motivated you to do so. On the other hand, if you left involuntarily, they will want to know what the reason for this was and how you reacted to it.
By asking such questions, employers also check your ability to handle tricky questions or see what you have to say about your previous colleagues or employers. The answer you give speaks a lot about your personality and may affect the decision regarding your potential employment, so you should learn how to come up with a good one.
How to Answer the Employment Gap Interview Question
To answer the employment gap interview question properly, you must:
#1. Be Prepared
Unsurprisingly, recruiters often want to hear a valid explanation for any employment gaps you have on your resume. So, the first step to acing any questions related to it is to take your time and think of the reasons behind your employment gap, as well as the way in which you want to present it to them.
#2. Be Honest
Always tell the truth, regardless of whether you left willingly or got laid off.
After all, if by any chance you think that lying wouldn’t do you any harm, remember that recruiters often do background checks on candidates and that there aren’t many things you can hide. Just another reason to keep a clean slate and avoid lying!
#3. Explain What You Did During the Gap
Although you shouldn’t go into detail about why you have an employment gap, you can show that you’ve acquired new skills and knowledge during this period. Moreover, you should make it clear that you’re ready to use these in your next job position.
For example, if you’ve spent your free time reading, mention how this has helped with your concentration, attention to detail, or problem-solving skills. On the other hand, if you decided to pursue a higher education, you can explain that you gained more knowledge related to the industry because of it.
#4. Focus on Achievements
Share the achievements you’ve earned during the employment gap with the interviewers. This way, you’ll show evidence that you used your free time to improve yourself and work on your career goals. For example, this includes talking about any situations where you helped out with something industry-related or the actions you took to solve specific industry-related issues.
Employment Gap Sample Answers
Let’s look at some employment gap explanation sample answers you may want to use:
Employment Gap Due to Personal Reasons
Answer example: “I took a break from work since my wife was struggling with her mental health. I decided that I needed to spend time with her to give her reassurance and help her get out of that state. Since she is now doing way better, I am excited to return to work again.”
Why this answer works: It’s a quick and simple answer—it doesn’t go into too much detail while still giving a solid reason for your employment gap.
Employment Gap Due to Being Laid Off
Answer example: “Since we’re in the same industry, I am positive you’ve heard that Sony has laid off most of their workers. Unfortunately, I was one of them, and I have, therefore, been left with few options during that gap. I decided to use the time to enhance my marketing skills so I can be prepared for what’s next.”
Why this answer works: This example shows your steadiness for new opportunities and that you hold no grudges even though getting laid off was probably difficult for you.
Employment Gap Due to The Pandemic
Answer example: “Due to the pandemic, I had no opportunities to grow further in my career. However, I decided that it would be a great idea to hone my skills during this gap. I took some digital marketing courses online and determined some new goals that I am excited to pursue.”
Why this answer works: A lot of people admit that the number one reason behind the gap on their resume is because of the pandemic. If this is the case with you, too, it’s completely valid to mention that during your interview. Talking about some skills you’ve gained in the meantime can also be rather beneficial, as it will show you still worked on yourself during those times.
Employment Gap Due to Illness
Answer example: “Due to some lung complications, I had to undergo surgery. The doctors said I needed some time to rest until I fully recovered, and that’s exactly what I did. I am now fully recovered and ready to start again.”
Why this answer works: It’s completely acceptable to prioritize your health above everything else. By giving an answer like this, you bring this to the interviewer’s attention, briefly mention what happened without rumbling, and emphasize that you’re ready for new professional endeavors.
Employment Gap Due to Family Reasons
Answer example: “Unfortunately, my father was having some heart difficulties, and I decided that I would want to spend some time with him until he recovers. That’s why I made the hard decision to leave my last job. Now that he feels better, I believe it’s a good time for me to get back on my feet.”
Why this answer works: Since family is one of the most important parts of life for most people, the potential employer will probably consider this reason solid. Such an answer also shows that the issue has been resolved and that they can rely on you.
Employment Gap Due to Ego
Answer example: At one point, I realized that my previous job was not a good fit for me, mainly because I felt like I had more experience and knowledge than I actually had. I used my own interpretation and opinions to finish the project, and the client didn’t like my work.
After such an experience, I realized that it’s important to be more grateful and that learning is a continuous, life-long activity. I’m now ready to learn more and not let my ego get to me.”
Why this answer works: Although it’s hard to talk about getting fired, especially if it was your fault, you show the recruiters that you used the particular situation as a new learning opportunity.
Employment Gap Due to Travel Opportunities
Answer example: “I felt quite mentally drained during my last working experience, and I decided that I needed a break to recharge. I took an eight-month trip around Europe, and it was the best time of my life. Now that I’ve experienced everything that I wanted to, I’m ready to dive into work again.”
Why this answer works: Employers value honesty, so consider mentioning why you needed the time off and how it led you to want to work again.
3 Tips on How to Answer Employment Gap Interview Questions
Finally, here are a few extra tips on how to answer questions about your employment gap:
- Don’t show that you’re desperate. If you haven’t been able to find a job for some time, don’t mention that during the interview. Instead, try to talk about how you’re trying to keep your options open. Sounding desperate might backfire, and the recruiter might find you too pushy.
- Don’t be too negative. If you got fired or laid off for unfair reasons, it’s completely fine to feel angry about it. However, in a professional setting, such as an interview, it’s always best to sound optimistic. Keep a positive attitude and focus on talking about what you want to achieve next.
- Talk about the gap even if the recruiter doesn’t ask about it. A great way to talk about your employment gap is to rip off the bandage quickly. Initialize the conversation yourself so you can focus on talking about other aspects of your resume.
Having an employment gap is not always a bad thing. Most people who went through it agree that it was actually a great way to learn more about themselves and decide what they want to do in life.
Regardless of what your employment gap reasons are, use your future interviews as opportunities to explain what you gained during this pause and highlight your new career goals. This way, you will definitely gain some respect and, hopefully, land the job of your dreams!