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Why Was There a Gap in Your Employment?

If there is a gap of any length on your resume- you should be prepared to answer- “Why was there a gap in your employment?” Anyone who has been unemployed for any amount of time has probably been asked this before- and it is completely reasonable why a hiring manager would want to know about it. You might also be asked similar interview questions- “Why did you leave your last job?” or “Why were you fired from your last job?” Your prospective employer wants to know if you are the most reliable person for the job- and if you simply did not work for several months or even a year- that can be a red flag. The important thing to bear in mind with this question is it is not an automatic disqualification. There are plenty of reasonable explanations for why you have that gap- you just need to be ready for the question so that it does not catch you off-guard.

How to Answer the “Why Was There a Gap in Your Employment” Interview Question

Be Honest: At the end of the day- honesty is the best policy. For instance- if you were out of work for six months because you were laid off and it took you a while to get new work- you would not want to say you stopped working because you got really sick during that time to try to win sympathy points. You should always assume your employer is going to figure out at some point that you were lying- and it is best to simply avoid that confrontation. Employers understand that things happen. If you were laid off or fired- then say that in your answer to “Why was there a gap in your employment?” You can then spin that negative experience into a positive by talking about how it was ultimately a good experience because it forced you to find a career you were more passionate about.

Never Speak Negatively About a Previous Employer: Whether you were fired or quit for your own reasons- you never want to speak negatively about your past work. Your answers to interview questions need to reflect positively on you as an individual- and you will be sending the wrong message if you show you are willing to trash talk someone from your past. Even if your former boss was a total jerk and you quit because you just could not take it anymore- spin it in a way that is productive. Talk about how you had advanced as far as you could in the organization and wanted to pursue something different.

Talk About What You Have Done in the Time Between Jobs: Chances are you have done something during your time in unemployment than simply sitting around the house watching television. Even though you did not work during that time- perhaps there is something you accomplished that is worthwhile. Did you volunteer at a local shelter for a few months? Did you do a lot of freelance gigs or work as a consultant? Really think about what you have been up to the last few weeks or months in order to answer the question. The important thing to remember is that you need to be ready for interview questions such as “Why was there a gap in your employment?” Prepare responses thoroughly beforehand so that you are not stumbling through an answer during the actual interview.

Sample “Why Was There a Gap in Your Employment” Answers

1. The last company I worked for needed to make significant cuts in 2014 due to substantial losses in revenue. Unfortunately- my position was on the chopping block- and I ended up being laid off. It was honestly the first time something like that had happened to me- and took a while for me to adjust. I began immediately applying to all jobs I was qualified for- but nothing really stuck. My spouse makes a good enough income to support both of us- so I decided that time was as good as any to pursue a passion of mine: helping animals. I started volunteering at a local shelter four days a week doing whatever I could to ensure dogs and cats found their forever homes. I feel like that experience has allowed me to develop key skills that would be useful in this position.

2. As much as I appreciate all the opportunities my last boss gave me- it became abundantly clear after working there for two years that there was no more room for advancement. We parted ways amicably- and I focused on the most important thing in my life: my children. For the last year I have been a stay-at-home mom- and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience to see my kids grow up. I am ready to get back into the workforce with some new skills- including how to carry a baby while vacuuming!