Have you heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”? Well, it's particularly true during an interview with a potential employer. But what do you do if you’re asked uncomfortable questions during that interview? You don’t want to make a bad impression, but you also need to tell the truth.
If you have an unexplained gap in your employment history, you should expect it to come up during the interview. But just because it comes up doesn’t mean it has to leave a poor impression of you.
Here are a few ways to handle employment gaps during the interview process.
Talk about relevant activities you did during the employment gap.
If you were unemployed because you were going back to school, raising a family or doing volunteer work, talk about it in the interview. Use this opportunity to position yourself in a positive light and highlight your passions. A good explanation can show your employer that you are a well-rounded candidate who has experience outside the workforce.
Explain how changing jobs was a part of gaining experience in your field.
For many occupations, changing jobs is normal and even expected. Emphasize that you wanted to gain as much experience as possible, and that’s why you changed jobs frequently. You can also emphasize that fit is important to you, and then discuss how you fit well into the office or facility for which you're interviewing.
Change the dates on your résumé from months to years.
If you had a few months of unemployment between Job 1 and Job 2, change the dates from months to years, so the gap is less noticeable. If the interviewer asks, be honest about the exact dates, but if they don’t ask, they may not care. If you’ve held higher-level positions in the past, it won’t be surprising that you took your time to find another job of the same pay and skill level.
Don’t include irrelevant jobs on your résumé.
Sometimes résumé gaps aren’t because you were unemployed, but because the jobs you had aren’t in the same field as the one you’re applying for now. Explain that the gaps were jobs not relevant to the current position, but do explain what you learned in your experiences with each. Again, this will show you’re a well-rounded candidate and have developed outside skills that can aid in your current specialty.
Emphasize your interest in a long-term position.
You want to ensure your interviewer that even if you haven’t had a long-term position for a while, you’re definitely interested in one now. Explain that you’re confident your skills are well-developed and that you're ready to dig into a full-time position.
Explain why you left your last position.
you may have been fired, let go, or made the decision to leave on your own. If you’re not currently working and your interviewer asks why, tell them what changed in your career and what you learned from your last position. Most importantly, be honest. Almost everyone has been fired once or quit a job that simply wasn’t right for them. It doesn’t mean you’re not right for this new job.
Employers understand how competitive the job market is these days. It’s normal for candidates to have employment gaps as they’re looking for something new. They will also understand if you had to take a job outside of your interests to make ends meet during the job search. You don’t have to justify or hide your employment gaps – show confidence in your future career and your ability to do this new job.
By explaining your résumé gaps openly and honestly, you get to be in charge of your career’s narrative instead of letting your interviewer’s imagination fill in the gaps for you.