How to explain a job gap during an interview

Gaps in employment happen.

You only have to see the state of the job market during Covid to realise that it can impact anyone, at any time. So, the first thing we want to say in this article is that you’re not alone.

The majority of people will have a gap in their career at some stage or another, some by choice and others not. What we want to do in this article is show you several ways you can explain your gaps during an interview, giving you the tools to practice your answers ahead of time, reducing possible anxiety you might have around them.

Explaining gaps can be customised depending on your own situation. We will cover a few examples in this article, but you can always reach out to us if you need extra help, one of our recruiting partners would be happy to share their knowledge where they can.

It will likely come up…

If you have a gap in your CV, the chances are rather high that it will be brought to light during an interview. Knowing this allows you to prepare correctly, therefore take the time beforehand to run through how you might structure your answer, get comfortable with what you want to say so you can come across as confident during the interview.

Honesty is the best policy

Honesty is always the best way for answering this type of question. Interviewers are often trained to detect inconsistencies in answers, if you lie during the first stage of an interview and forget your lie later in the process, this will seriously damage your chances of securing that job.

The solution is simple, be upfront and honest. Own the gap and then explain what you did.

What did you do during this gap?

Although you don’t have to go into granular detail about why you had a gap, a simple one-line explanation usually works, you should shift the question towards what you accomplished during this break to make what seemed a negative (your gap), into a positive (your learns).

This is a great time to mention any volunteer work, freelance projects, upskilling that took place etc. You want to show the interviewer that despite not being employed, you were still engaged and growth orientated during the gap.

Flip the question

Regarding gaps in your career, they can often be seen as negative, especially if there is a prolonged gap. It is best to answer the interviewer’s question and then shift the focus back onto the job at hand and the future prospects of the employer. To do this, you could simply ask a question back to the interview to move the conversation along.

Putting it together

A simple formula you can follow is:

1) Reason for unemployment.

2) What you did during this time.

3) A simple bridge phrase about returning to work.

4) Asking them a question to move the conversation along.

So, this could look like this…

If you were laid off

During the last months, my former employer underwent an organisational restructure that resulted in my position being moved to another city. I was offered the opportunity to relocate, however with a young family settled here, I decided to stay. However, it did mean that the organisation could no longer employ me.

I spent some time with my family, collecting my thoughts and deciding upon my next move. Really focusing on what I wanted next from my career. Researching more into [company name], I got the sense that this is somewhere I would like to be.

What does the future plans for the company look like at the moment?

Be mindful that if you took time off for a personal reason that you don’t feel comfortable sharing, keep the conversation focused on the future prospects within the new position and how your skills relate. If the interviewer is pressing you to a point, you are uncomfortable with, inform them. If they persist you are allowed to end the interview on your terms.

Depending on your situation and reasoning, explaining a gap can be challenging. We will always ask but respect your decision on what you disclose to us. Part of our process is understanding who you are and what you can bring to each organisation we represent, if you are looking for a job and need some support then please reach out today.

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Eden Whitcomb

Bringing simplicity to the chaos of recruitment, one educational post at a time.