With all the the chaos and uncertainty of the past year, there’s a rising number of job seekers with employment gaps. If you’re one of them, how do you discuss the situation during an interview without sabotaging your chance of landing the job? Here are some tips to follow:
Expect to talk about it.
Don’t put your head in the sand and pretend you won’t get the question. Instead, make sure you’re well-prepared for it when you do. Even though it’s an awkward situation, it’s one hiring managers understand given the circumstances of the last year. As long as you have an articulate answer ready, you’ll be able to respond easily.
Be honest about what happened.
While you don’t want to dwell too much on the gap, you need to provide some context for it. Otherwise, hiring managers will assume the worst. So give a quick explanation about what happened, whether you were furloughed, downsized, or had to take a break from work to tend to circumstances in your personal life.
Explain the productive ways you’re spending this time.
If your gap is more than a few weeks, hiring managers will want to know what you’ve been doing in the meantime. Explain any volunteer or temporary assignments you’ve taken on since your job ended. You can also talk about ways you’ve stayed on top of industry news or any new skills or abilities you gained over that time to prepare for your re-entry. While you haven’t been employed full-time, you want to convey that you’ve been engaged and motivated during the experience.
For instance, you can say something like:
“When I first got laid off, I focused some time on reaching out and connecting with my network and taking courses online. I thought that taking these few steps during my time away from work was a positive investment because it helped me gain new skills and revive many connections. Now, I’m ready to jump back into the workplace and am excited to learn more about your opportunity.”
Move the conversation on from the gap.
If the hiring manager seems stuck on it, try to steer the conversation away from your employment gap to something more positive. For instance, explain how eager you are to learn more about the position or why you applied in the first place. You can also start asking the hiring manager questions about the job, such as what it involves and the challenges that come with it.