Explaining The Gap In Your Resume


So you’re feeling pretty good because you’ve got yourself a job interview! You feel you’re off to a good start having made a really solid first impression, and your advanced preparation has paid off in the first 4 questions they’ve put to you. Just as you feel your confidence growing, one of the interviewers furrows his brow and asks you about a gap in your résumé; those years that seemingly can’t be filled in with work, volunteering or education.

Like any other planning and preparation you do ahead of a job interview, you also need to anticipate as best you can, where you might be exposed or weak. When you look at your résumé with an objective eye, you’ll be able to spot such issues, and a gap will stand out. Remember that you’re likely to be interviewed by people who are experienced interviewers; who dissect resumes on a regular basis, looking for both the strengths someone will bring to the position and potential liabilities.

To best respond to questions about a gap on your résumé, you need to first understand why this is such an issue for some employers. A gap on a résumé could show a variety of potential issues; and by issues, I mean problems. Any number of things could be the reason; a mental health breakdown which required you to quit your job, taking time off to have children and raise a family, being fired and unable to land another position, relocating from one area to another requiring you to quit a job and set up yourself all over again. There could also be time off to go back to school and school didn’t work out. In this latter case, the applicant may not have put school on the résumé because they dropped out of the 3, 4 or 5 year program after 2 years and decided not to put the incomplete schooling on the résumé. The same could be for omitting to include several short-term jobs; positions that didn’t work out and aren’t relevant to the job you’re after now.

Understand that while you know yourself extremely well, the people you’re seated before in a job interview may no absolutely nothing about you other than what they might get from looking you up on social media. When an organization is considering making an investment via hiring you, they want to know as best they can what exactly they are going to receive in return. They know at the moment you’re at your best, both in clothing choices, posture, grooming and of course the way you talk and the content of your answers. It is in the end, a performance of sorts. Questions that probe are designed to get beyond this polished image and get an idea of the real you.

Now if you’ve been off to have a child or two, saying so will be definitely honest, but it will possibly raise new concerns about your absenteeism to care for sick children, attend school functions, and limit the amount of focus you have on your job even – if you’re the type of parent who is going to be having your child check-in with you several times a day when they have a question, get home from school, go to a friend’s house, or even just to chat. Such concerns accelerate if you happen to be a single parent, for now you have no one to share required trips to the school and all those distracting phone calls. It’s not that companies dislike children and are prejudiced against employees that have them but rather, they have a business to run and the business requires employees who are focused on doing their job and consistently present to do it.

If your children are now school-aged and you’ve got a reliable childcare provider – and a back up provider, say so. Address their potential concerns and prove you’re fully aware of the commitment the job before you demands and you’re up for it.

If you took time off to care for someone and that person no longer requires care, say so. Maybe they are now in a long-term care facility being cared for, they’ve passed on, or you’ve got other people providing the care freeing you up to work. Again, you’re attempting to prove that the reason you weren’t working is no longer an issue, and you’re in a place to focus fully on yourself and committing to work.

Now, it could be that you’ve taken more time off from work than you had originally planned. In the case of say, being terminated, needing to rebuild your shattered ego and find some new line of work because your former job was too stressful or you just weren’t very good at whatever it was. While this may be the case, best not to share absolutely everything!

Consider explaining that you took time to look at what direction you wanted the next phase of your work life to look like. Perhaps you gave yourself the gift of time to reassess your strengths and interests and instead of just taking any old job which you weren’t invested in to fill a gap, you researched where you’d be most happy and where your skills and experience would serve you best. In the end, what you learned and discovered is both the job you’re applying to and seated before the person in front of you.

Anticipate the question, prepare your answer.

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About This Gap On Your Resume


Have a gap on your résumé? If so, you might be feeling some anxiety heading into the job interview, dreading the moment when the interview peers across the table, looks you squarely in the eye and pleasantly says, “I’m interested to hear what you were doing that explains this gap in time on your résumé.”

So there it is, out in the open; that slap in the face moment when you feel trapped between wanting to tell the truth and knowing if you do your chances of getting this job are gone. There just doesn’t seem to be a good answer to your personal situation. Well, let’s see if we might come up with some helpful suggestions.

Before we get to the content or what you’ll actually say, I urge you to deliver this particular question with confidence. Interviewers you’re no doubt aware, are well-trained to observe people’s body language and facial expressions. Whenever you are telling an outright lie or exaggerating the truth greatly, a person’s body language gives them away.

It’s highly likely that because this question is one you are uncomfortable answering, you might naturally mimic the same body language as those that lie or greatly stretch the truth, and this you want to avoid at all costs. So do your very best to speak with confidence, look the interviewer in the face as you answer the question and squash any sheepishness in your delivery.

The second thing I’d like you to remember is that times have changed. In the past, anyone with a gap in their résumé stood out more. Individuals often worked at companies for decades and there was greater pressure on people to keep working while dealing with personal problems. Things have changed though; it is more common these days to have a gap as more people are experiencing lay-offs, plant restructurings, downsizing and people themselves are just more mobile than ever. Changing jobs is much more common. So it  isn’t necessarily the huge disaster you might think it is to have a gap on a résumé.

Okay so you need a good answer. The key here is to be truthful and at the same time feel good about the answer you deliver. Coming up with a good honest answer can dramatically change the entire interview largely in part because you won’t be waiting in a heightened nervous state for this question. This is going to have a positive impact on the rest of the interview as a result.

Now honestly, to best coach you through this question, I’d need to know – (and so would anyone you are consulting with for help) the real reason for the gap. Knowing the truth helps tremendously to tailor a response that is personal, believable and deliverable. So no matter who you are working with, open up, lay it out and then with the worst on the table, you can together build an answer that you can confidently deliver in the real world.

So, not knowing your specific reason for the gap, here are some common situations: time off to raise a child, previously fired and unable to mentally cope with the experience, marriage breakdown, significant death in the family, uncertainty over career direction. Now you might have one of the above or you might have something else like jail time, caring for an ill family member, recovering from surgery or a health scare or possibly you just stopped looking altogether due to some depression or frustration.

For a number of the answers above, something could have been simultaneously going on in your life; trying to figure out what your next career move would be. There is and always has been a number of people in most people’s lives who unknowingly cause us anxiety asking us constantly what it is we are going to be; what we are going to do with our lives. While we’re busy just trying to stay afloat and cope with things in our Life, we’re just not ready to plan out the road map of our next 30 years when everyone else seems to have their own master plans perfected.

Herein could be part of our answer to the gap period; time spent figuring out what steps to take re. career direction. Could we honestly say something like, “The period in question is time I took to check what it was I really wanted to do moving forward. Rather than take a short-term job which would have robbed me of the time to thoroughly research my next move, I pulled back and put my energy into assessing myself, including my interests, skills and experience. I found that what I really want to do is __________ and after further investigation this organization emerged as a good fit for me personally. This is the reason I sit before you today.”

If this works for you, I’m glad and feel free to extract what you can. You see, an answer like the one above might actually be some of what was really going on even though it’s not the only thing that was going on. You might well have had a personal issue to walk through, but there’s nothing that says you have to share 100% of all the reasons you have a gap on your résumé. Not unless you had to swear on a bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth at any rate!