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!

 

 

Reframe The Job Interview


Looking for a job, writing resumes, going to interviews, worrying about whether they will call you or ignore you; this isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. In fact, most of those I know see the process as a roller coaster of ups and downs, built up expectations and dashed hopes. In short, a stressful experience to be ended as soon as possible by getting a job.

When I ask job seekers to share with me what they find most annoying or unpleasant about looking for work they almost always tell me it’s the job interviews. They typically say they hate them, (and hate is a pretty strong word). Why does this word get used over and over to describe the experience? Typically it’s because of those feelings of nervousness, feeling judged, evaluated, setting themselves up to be accepted or rejected.

Imagine how the experience of the job interview, and more importantly the anticipation of the job interview became something to look forward to however; something you perceived as an enjoyable experience. If job interviews were fun wouldn’t you look forward to them even if, yes they still caused you some nervousness?

An analogy might help us out here….hmmm….what would work for us…? Ah ha! Think of going on a date with someone you’ve heard good things about. Better than a blind date set up by one of your friends, suppose you’ve got a date Friday night with someone you’re looking forward to meeting face-to-face. You’re looking forward to sitting down with them because what you’ve learned so far about them has your interest peaked. You hope that meeting them in-person they’ll live up to what you’ve found out so far. Are you nervous? Sure you are, but it’s a good nervous and the anticipation is a good thing.

Why can’t a job interview be along the same lines? You do your homework and find out about the company you are interviewing with. You hope when you sit down face-to-face that they’ll live up to your expectations. Are you nervous? Sure you are, but again it’s a good nervous. You just might make a long-term working relationship out of this first meeting. You’re hoping to hit it off with them and them with you. Just like a first date, you spruce yourself up and look your best and come ready for conversation.

Now perhaps you can’t see any parallel beyond what I’ve described. In your view, it’s not like a date because in a first date each person comes with their questions, each feeling out the other and the conversation goes back and forth. Perhaps it doesn’t work for you personally because you view the job interview not so much as a first date but more like an interrogation from some spy movie where you sit on a cold steel chair under some intense light being grilled by some thug extracting all your information in the most unpleasant of circumstances. The worst part is that by submitting your résumé, you actually walked into this interrogation voluntarily!

Job interviews are like so many other things in life; how we perceive them in our minds goes a long way to how we will actually experience them. Imagine it to be an interrogation and that’s what it will be. Imagine it to be a fun enjoyable experience and it will be as well. Now I know it takes more than just picturing it as a positive experience to make it so, but when you shift your thinking to seeing interviews as good experiences to look forward to, you’ll also find putting in the work to make the experience a positive one is something you’ll undertake with enthusiasm.

That date this Friday evening? Likely you’ll get your outfit ready ahead of time, you’ll wonder what you’ll talk about and prepare yourself with a few questions for them. You also think about what you’ll share on this first date, probably putting your best qualities on display and concealing some of your faults until you get to know them better. You’ll think about what you’ll do, wonder how you’ll get out of it if things don’t go well, or if they do, you hope they’ll like you as much as you like them. When it’s over, you’ll hope they’ll reach out and ask to see you again or be receptive to your own follow-up.

Sounds like an interview to me! In fact, what if the term, ‘job interview’ was replaced with, ‘opportunity conversation’? What if you told yourself you have an upcoming conversation about an opportunity? It’s just a small thing perhaps but it’s one step of reframing this experience from the negative event you dislike into one that you could view as positive; something to look forward to even.

Conversations are one way we find out information and confirm what we’ve learned previously. For both you and the interviewer(s), this interview is an opportunity to sit down face-to-face and get to know one another. They’ve got your résumé and you’ve got their website and whatever your research has revealed ahead of time. Now they and you have a chance to ask questions, listen and rate each other, ultimately deciding if you have a future together and if so, under what conditions.

Tell yourself ahead of time this date is going to be a disaster and it likely will be. Envision it positively and it has a chance to work out and be enjoyable; for both of you.

Things Affecting Interview Answers


Sometimes I’m asked by people for a specific answer they could give to a particular question that they anticipate having in an upcoming interview. While I can quite well give an answer to many of those questions, I know it is impossible to give all people an answer that is infallible in all interview situations.

The reason has to do with a number of factors that the interviewee needs to size up preceding the question. It might be useful to look at some of these factors which should influence a person in shaping their replies to questions.

The first factor is a person’s verbal skills. While some people are talkative and effectively communicate their thoughts with words easily, others are less able to do so. Their answers are generally straight forward and short. Vocabulary is closely related to this factor; some have a large vocabulary, know industry buzz words and technical terminology while some do not.

Of course the atmosphere being created by the interviewer often sets the tone for the kind of answer you can safely assume will be received by them favourably. This ability to read the interviewer based on your observations is critically important. If they are jovial, laid back, casually dressed, you might correctly assume some occasional tasteful humour, a smile and a laugh will be okay. A sombre, non-nonsense or even gruff interviewer might be better approached with caution and conservative answers.

Some interviewers read questions to applicants, thus ensuring each applicant gets the exact same question and there are few other words added. They ask, you answer, thanks for coming. This kind of interview restricts the applicant from picking up on information shared from the conversation because the interviewer is adding little to nothing in the process. While they may be friendly and smiling, your answer can’t appeal to anything you are picking up from their words as they are few and far between outside the formal questions.

Of course the number of people representing the employer affects how one answers a question too. A panel interview where you are facing several interviewers can result in an applicant connecting with one or more interviewers over others. Therefore your answers in this case might vary in tone and your words depending on the person you are addressing in answering the question posed. You might answer the Human Resources person differently than the person who will ultimately be your supervisor.

One of the most significant factors to consider affecting your answer to a question has to do with how you perceive things are going in an interview up to the current point in time when you get asked a particular question. If things are pleasant, your confidence high, you might answer a question differently than if you’re feeling the interview is going poorly and the job slipping away with every answer you give.

I hope you will agree that these factors influence how and what you might say in an interview. It’s not enough to have a pre-determined answer ready to a certain question and then just regurgitate it when the time comes. If this is all interviewers were looking for, they’d mail you the questions and read your answers.

Good interviewers and good job applicants read each other internally and constantly checking throughout the interview to confirm or change their opinion of each other. So what started off tense might soon change to a more comfortable experience, and therefore how you deliver an answer will vary depending upon the point during the interview when the question is asked. The opposite is true as well; you might have sensed things were laid back at the start only to find the interviewer has changed the tone of the interview to being more serious, more matter-of-fact.

Therefore it becomes impossible for one person to coach all people to answer all questions the same way and expect the same positive outcome. What one says and how one delivers it will vary from person to person and from situation to situation.

One thing you should reasonably be expected to receive if you are ever working with someone coaching you in advance of an interview, is some personal time. So, if you were working with me for example, I’d be most able to help you if I got to know you first. Knowing your vocabulary, confidence level, experience, assertiveness, communication and people skills are just some of the things that would go into my assessment of your ability to answer questions in the way which will work best for you.

Now if you take a group experience – say you attend a workshop on preparing for interviews, you’ll likely get standard good advice. Things to do before, during and after an interview which are common sense. You might or might not even get a chance to pose some of your own tough questions you’ve been asked. Giving you a personal answer that will work for you is hard though because of all the factors I’ve mentioned earlier. At some point you will need to assess things on the go in the interview and determine for yourself at that moment on how to best proceed.

Some interview better than others as we know. Like anything else, interviewing is a skill and it can be learned if you have the interest and see the value.

All the best out there.

 

 

Job Interview Help


Many people I listen to when discussing employment interviews, raise the issue of having difficulty coming up with real life examples from their past when responding to interview questions at job interviews. They are searching for extreme situations they have been in that highlight extreme responses and in many cases, they draw blanks.

Situations that require our skills to resolve, organize, lead, cooperate or meet targets probably happen much more frequently than we first imagine. Equally, we succeed in achieving successes on an ongoing daily basis much of the time but fail to recognize these moments and therefore fail to recall them when we wish to.

Let’s start with a very simple example; one I’m not suggesting would be interview worthy but an example nonetheless. Have you ever gone to get a drink on your break at work and after ordering found you are a tad short on the change in your pocket? That quarter you thought you had turns out to be a nickel? How did you resolve the problem? Did you decline the drink? Offer to run right back with the missing 20 cents? Borrow the 20 cents from a person you went with? Ask if you could pay them later the same day the missing 20 cents? Any of these work as an example of how you resolved the problem.

Interview worthy? No. An example of being in a stressful situation where there is a problem and you have to resolve it somehow, yes. Or have you woke up ill and had a full day of meetings planned with clients? What did you do to resolve that? Go in ill? Call in and tell the boss you wouldn’t be in and where he or she would find the names of people to be called and rescheduled? Just went back to bed and did nothing?

This gets closer to something you could use in an interview, but neither is some major hurdle that resulted in newspaper reporters banging on your door to get an exclusive interview with you because of the extreme skills you displayed in overcoming the issue at hand. Both do however show your judgment in action, your quick thinking or your ability to follow established procedures and level of personal responsibility.

You can find examples of your skills not only in the world of paid employment but also in the realm of volunteerism. If you are donating your time and giving of yourself with a non-profit organization, you are still required to have a level of accountability and punctuality. You are still showcasing your organizational skills, interpersonal skills, perhaps your computer proficiencies. Is your work – and truer to the point – are you yourself – valued and depended upon where you volunteer? That could be shared and score you points.

One of the key difficulties I often hear from people preparing for job interviews is that they fell ill-prepared for the questions they’ll face precisely because they don’t know what questions they’ll be faced with. Like I’ve said in my blogs before, you can anticipate with fairly good accuracy what many of those questions will be however. Yes, you can predict with a high degree of probability the questions in advance of the interview, and that in turn should guide you in coming up with some examples of your past performance to respond in kind to the questions.

If you are going for an IT job where the job posting specifically states you need problem identification skills and problem-solving skills, it’s a safe bet you’ll be asked to give examples from your past that clearly prove your accounting skills. Wouldn’t you agree? Oh you wouldn’t? Good for you. Yes I am being smart here. Sorry. You wouldn’t be asked to give examples of your accounting skills because the job you are applying for doesn’t require that skill set. It does however seem likely you’d best have a couple of situations in mind that prove or demonstrate your problem-solving skills.

So the smart thing to do in the example above would be to sit down now ahead of the interview, and recall some concrete, very specific examples from your past. Examples in which you were faced with a conflict or problem, and then next compose an answer that shows how you identified it, step-by-step worked on it, and then the positive outcome. Voila, you’re on your way to a good interview.

If the job you are going calls for leadership, be prepared for that question and pull out examples that show leadership. Whether in a time of crisis, a project with others, a sales competition, even a medical emergency on the street, situations that you’ve been in which demonstrate your skills and performance and match the qualifications the question is looking for are all good.

If you have difficulty coming up with your skills and stories from your past, I can assure you that a good Employment Counsellor can in a conversation, draw out your skills and name them just from hearing you talk about your past. This kind of skill identification will increase your self-esteem, your confidence and reduce your interview anxiety when it comes to answering questions if you feel anxious, unsure or don’t believe you are truly qualified somehow.

Starting today, look for moments in your daily life AS THEY OCCUR which show how you to respond to situations. Note them. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself.