A gap in employment can happen for numerous reasons: getting laid off, starting a family, or dealing with a health issue, to name a few. While unexplained or repeat employment gaps can be cause for concern, there are also situations where a break in your resume is perfectly reasonable. The key is giving a logical and succinct explanation for it.
We’ll cover how to explain a gap in employment during a job interview and share some sample answers you can use when a hiring manager asks about it.
Why do interviewers ask this question?
If your resume shows a break of more than a couple of months between jobs, it’s probably something an interviewer will ask you about. They’ll be looking to find out what prompted the gap to learn whether it was something concerning, like getting fired, or whether there’s a more innocuous explanation. If you have multiple back-to-back gaps between jobs, it could be a red flag that you’re a habitual job hopper.
Longevity is important to companies that are looking to hire. If they invest in the cost of onboarding and training you, they want to feel confident you will not leave without cause. Having a clear explanation for your employment gap will help put your interviewer at ease.
What are managers looking for in an answer?
An interviewer wants to hear a good reason for your gap in employment. Some of those reasons are:
- Going back to school
- Job searching after a layoff
- Being a stay-at-home parent
- Recovering from an illness
- Taking time off for your mental health
- Caring for a relative
All of these reasons have one thing in common: they happen for a limited period of time, which you can show has come to an end.
If you were a stay-at-home parent, maybe your kids started school. If you were getting through an illness, perhaps you made a full recovery. Make it clear to your interviewer that whatever prompted your break in employment is now resolved, so there’s no chance of you taking off shortly after they hire you.
How to answer questions related to employment gaps
While it’s fine to keep the details you provide to a minimum, don’t distort the truth. Be upfront with your interviewer about why you spent time out of the workforce and if necessary, take accountability for actions that led up to it. Read our guide about how to explain getting fired here.
Don’t give a rambling answer. Explain the gap in a sentence or two, then steer the conversation toward why you’re so motivated to re-enter the workforce in this role.
Did you obtain any certifications during your time out of the job market? Do volunteer work? Sharpen your skills? It will reflect positively on you if you cite things you did during your time off that contributed to making you a better candidate.
How not to answer
Attempting to hide it
Don’t fudge the dates on your resume in an attempt to cover up an employment gap. Not only is it wrong to lie, but many employers conduct employment verification, which usually involves having your previous employer provide the dates you worked there.
Having nothing to show for it
Even if your gap in employment was beyond your control, try to think of something positive that came of it, like having time to learn a new skill or reassess your career goals. The last thing employers want to hear is that you spent six months sitting at home on the couch.
How to explain a gap in employment sample answers
“I’m very grateful that I could take time off to stay at home with my kids when they were young. However, I always knew I’d return to the workforce, and now that my children are in school, I’m excited for the opportunity to dive back in with this role.”
“I took two years off to get my master’s degree. During that time, I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, which only strengthened my resolve to find a position like this one that allows me to make a difference in the community.”
By coming prepared to talk about your gap in employment and having a reasonable, matter-of-fact explanation for it, you’ll give your hiring manager the reassurance they need to feel confident moving you forward in the hiring process.