Kai Dickerson
Community Specialist
Posted June 19, 2020

How to talk about employment gaps during an interview

Find out how to prevent gaps in your work history from derailing you from being hired.
Kai Dickerson
Community Specialist
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How to talk about employment gaps during an interview
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Maybe you were laid off, or your work contract ended - whatever the case may be, that time off of work creates an employment gap (possibly more than one) in your work history. With millions of jobs lost in the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic, time gaps are not a surprise. Despite this, employers are still going to ask for an explanation for any breaks in your work history the next time you interview for a job.

Let’s take a look at what an employment gap is and how you can best answer the question when a potential employer asks.

What is an employment gap?

An employment gap is any amount of time where you’re not employed at a job. It could be a few weeks, months, or even years. Employers look for gaps because they're trying to assess if you are reliable and consistent, and a good candidate for the job. There are many reasons why employment gaps occur, like taking time off to go back to school, getting laid off, seasonal work ending, or needing time to care for family, so it's important to communicate that with a potential employer.

Be the first to mention the gap

Instead of waiting for the hiring manager to bring it up in the interview (take a deep breath and) bring it up yourself. Doing this will allow you to explain the reason for your employment gap on your own terms. By the time you've been selected for an #interview, most employers have already seen the employment gap on your #application or resume, so they’re probably aware. Stepping up and explaining the situation shows the employer that you’re honest and that you take responsibility.

Honesty is always the best policy

If you have an employment gap in your work history, be upfront with employers. Trying to omit or hide details can work against you in the job application process. Hiring managers will ask, so here are some ways you can address the breaks:

  • If you were fired
    Explain why you were let go — you don’t need to go into too much detail, but you should still address it. Keep the explanation as light and positive as possible; and while you may have strong feelings about the incident, it’s important that you don’t let your emotions influence how you respond. It's best to focus on what you learned, and how that experience changed you for the better.

  • If you were laid off
    If you were part of a group layoff, this could work in your favor because the reason for the termination is likely due to company changes, like budget cuts or #Coronavirus. While hiring managers are generally aware of the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, some explanation can be helpful. You can do this by bringing it up in the interview, or making a note on your application or resume.

  • If you took time for personal reasons
    If you had to take time off from work for personal reasons, don't leave a potential employer to guess why. Raising a family, taking care of your own health (mental or physical), taking care of others, getting more schooling, are all perfectly valid reasons. Keep the explanation simple and focus on the skills you acquired over that time period. Time management, organization, decision-making, and problem-solving are all skills that employers value. Tie them into the job you’re applying for and emphasize how your experience makes you a better candidate.

Regardless of the gaps in your work history, remaining confident in yourself is crucial as you continue your #jobsearch. Sometimes it’s difficult to talk about why you left a previous position, especially if it was a challenging situation. Take a moment before the interview starts to collect your thoughts, focus on the positive, and relax. Being optimistic and forward-looking shows potential employers that you're ready for your next job opportunity.


Do you have an employment gap in your work history? Share your story in the comments below.

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Kai Dickerson
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Ford Simpson

I found it hard to tell the employment agency that I took care of my ailing mother then years later my father. It seemed to personal and private and not very pleasant to remember. The ladies almost scolded me for excluding that from my work history. That is a sensitive subject for me to tell someone I don't know. Thanks for letting me tell you the problem I had. Ford

1y
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Rudolph Dunmore

I am not trying to pay with any credit cards nor money to get me a job nor can I afford it. All I need is help to find me a job to get me back on my feet and that's it.

1y
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Samantha P.

I hate having to pay for an exam for a job, pass the exam and never receive a call. Explaining to a potential employer I had a sick sibling I had to take care is personal and it hurts still. I do not like having the conversation at all. Thank you for the information.

1y
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Louis Mueller

I am 85 years old. I have been through this mine-field many times. The moderators' answers are good.

From my own experience, I learned to make an entry in my application or resume, such as "Unable to find work," "End of seasonal job," "In school," "Cared for ailing parent," "Loss of parent, spouse, etc." You have nothing to be ashamed of, and family illnesses and deaths are very painful. Still, in my opinion, it is best to deal with it up front. Make a brief statement and be done with it. You will have said all that needs to be said, and in most cases, have warded off an extremely painful question-and-explanation session, and usually you will evoke some sympathy from the interviewer.

Best wishes, and good luck to all.

1y
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Tamra Muninger

Employment gaps? That’s putting it lightly! It’s this reason here that I’m so insecure re: The job force. I only have about 4 years in the work field and the rest was being a stay at home mom or, doing time for some poor choices that I made about 6 years ago. I agree with Kai about how to talk during an interview. That Honesty and taking responsibility is a good way to step up and take responsibility. . Also, in my case accountability

13w
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