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Explaining a Job Gap in an Interview

Updated: May 10

Having a gap in your career history can seem like a big problem when applying for a new job. Maybe you'll get an interview, but how do you explain that time without any work? By highlighting the strength and drive you showed in that difficult situation!


Almost 40% of people without jobs in 2021 were unemployed for longer than six months. So, don't worry! This is a very common issue, and this article will help you explain it clearly and confidently in your résumé, and then show your interviewer how you overcame these challenging situations. Turn that negative into a positive.


Be Honest and Open

We all want to make the bad times look a little better with some exaggeration or a little 'unimportant' lie, because we want to give a good impression during an interview, but don't do it! You cannot "un-say" something once it's been said. If anyone finds out what you have said is not 100% truthful; you will be off the hiring list forever with that company. Read on to see how you can explain your job gap in a positive way without any of that!


Include it in Your Résumé

In you are worried it will affect your chances of getting an interview, this step is optional. But, in most cases, it will help you to include your career gap in your résumé. Just make sure you add a short description of what positive steps you took during that time. There are more helpful tips on how to explain your job gap positively later in this article.


Take Control

Never wait for an interviewer to talk about your career gap. When they ask you to "Tell me about yourself", this is a great opportunity to tell them that you were unemployed for some time, and share the lessons you learned. Making mistakes is human, but learning from them is superhuman; honesty and a strong motivation to improve are great qualities for a new employee!


Tips for Taking Control and Explaining Your Job Gap

  • Keep it short - don't talk about the gap for more than a minute before you move on to another more important career topic.

  • Try not to blame anyone - focus on what you could do better in future and what you have learned.

  • Don't talk about how it felt - honest and open are great, but talk about the facts, not the feelings.

  • Don't come back to the topic - if your interviewer brings the conversation back to talking about the gap, after you have fully explained it, try saying something like: "There isn't much more to say about that really. I learned a lot from that experience. But I'd like to talk more about how the rest of my work experience is great for this position." No need to focus on the negatives!


Be Clear about the Big Picture

If you had to leave a job because of your company downsizing, closing a store/department, or ending a revenue stream, make it clear that your job loss was not because of a problem with your work performance. Your interviewer will understand if your job came to an end because you were one of ten team members who were let go because all the stores in your country closed. Sometimes big-picture corporate decisions have a big impact, and that is a perfectly good explanation.


Explain How You Used the Gap

Naturally, your interviewer will want to know what you did while you were unemployed, but don't worry; with a little preparation you can take what is usually a difficult time, and show off all the self-improvement you did.


Focus on the skills you used, the knowledge you gained, and any other positive steps you took during that time. These are some examples of great uses of your job gap:

  • Education

  • Traveling and learning about the world

  • Making a family

  • Volunteering

  • Freelance work

  • Home renovations!

Remember that you have the experience and skills you need for the job. Sharing the good experiences you had while unemployed, as well as the lessons you learned through the difficult times, says a lot about your positive personality. All that is left to do is to show your interviewer which skills you can transfer into this new position.​

Example Job-Gap Interview Responses

There are many reasons you could have a gap in your résumé. To help you get started on planning your own answers to these questions, here are some example answers for the most common reasons:


If You Went Traveling

"I took a six-month break to see more of the world and different cultures. It taught me a lot about myself, and I had some important life lessons. Living abroad challenged a lot of what is 'normal' in our culture, and I think a lot more out of the box now because of that. I'm really motivated and ready to continue my career now.”


If You Got Sick

"I wasn't able to continue in my previous job because of a medical condition. But now that I've fully recovered, I'm really happy to be able to get back to my career. It's given me the confidence to know I can get through anything.”


If You Lost Your Job

"I lost my job at my previous company. There was a push to downsize in our department, and I had recently started there, so it made business sense to let me go. I gained a lot of knowledge and experience in that time though, and I'm proud of what I managed to accomplish there. My former manager gave me an excellent reference, so (s)he was really pleased with my work too.”


If You Took Care of Your Kids

"I didn't think it was a realistic option, in my family, to raise my children and work at the same time. So, I decided to pause my career to raise my children while they were younger. It was the right decision then, but now it's time to get back to my career.”


Wrap Up

Maybe job gaps were a big problem in the past when applying for a new position, but the job market overall has updated because of COVID-19. A well-explained job gap will not normally cause you any problems these days, and a positive approach to that explanation could even improve your chances of getting that job.


So, take the time you need to prepare, clearly explain how you used that time, what you learned from it, and how you want to go forward with your career. Don't let a gap stop you applying for your dream job.

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