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  • David Still

Job Interview Question: Why was there a gap in your employment?

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

There are many tough interview questions that interviewees need to prepare themselves for. One such question: Why was there a gap in your employment?

Now, this can be a difficult question to answer, especially if you do not feel the truth will be well-received. Most people do want to speak truthfully though, and - in most cases - the truth will likely satisfy the interviewer if communicated comfortably and articulately.

So, take some time to review the timelines of your various employment stints throughout your entire work history. Naturally, all meaningful jobs, the duties performed, and the associated time-period for each should be detailed accurately within your resume.

For many people, there will be one hiccup, or perhaps a few instances where the timelines between jobs raise potential questions for an objective outsider seeking to understand someone’s history and perhaps gain a window into his or her personality.

So, rather than hope the question will not come up in an interview (it will), be prepared to directly speak to the question and provide proper context for instances where gaps appear to be greater than some might expect. You will generally find that there is less to fear than you might think.

A few thoughts on a few typical situations:

Difficulty finding a new job.

The fact that you were not instantly offered an amazing new role to replace the job that you lost after being laid-off because of the pandemic does not necessarily mean that something is wrong with you, although conventional wisdom often implies this to be the case.

Simply take stock of your situation and look at everything from all angles. Try to anticipate the perspective of the interviewer and the lens through which they will be evaluating your response. (It will most likely be a defensive lens. Remember: they are trying to avoid pain at all costs and a bad hire is very painful for them, so therefore you are not being afforded the benefit of the doubt in nuanced areas.)

In most cases, your truthful response to a question will be satisfactory so long as you anticipated the question. Often, people fail to prepare in advance for certain questions, and even when they provide the truthful answer, any hesitation or awkwardness in fielding the question will provide an appearance of being disingenuous.

Nowadays, the job market and its various influencing factors are more complicated than ever. Most emotionally intelligent and mature people know this so simply prepare for your interview and tell the truth with confidence. You should be fine.

Taking a sabbatical to help an ailing relative or raise kids.

For sure, there is nothing wrong with taking time away to help a relative or invest in your most important life choice – your kids. If this is the case, openly communicate your choice and the rationale behind your decision. Anyone that would hold such decisions against you is someone you do not want to work for – period.

In sum:

We do not need to detail every potential reason for why there may be a gap in your resume as there are just too many possible scenarios. So long as you are genuinely comfortable in yourself and – by extension – your choices, you should be fine with telling the truth.

Remember, there is more than one interviewer in the sea. Relax, it is only an interview.

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