How to explain a gap in your work history
So, you took a year-long sabbatical from your role as hotel concierge to backpack through Europe. Or, perhaps you quit your banquet manager job to test out your skills as a chef-in-training.
Many job seekers will for one reason or another, have a year or more of interruption along their career path. Sometimes, such gaps may be due to a lay-off or firing, and other times, for personal reasons and family situations. During these “dead spots” of time, they may choose to explore other careers or roles, or experience life outside of the workforce altogether. For prospective employers, such time lapses may be perceived as a red flag.
If you’re banking on the idea that hiring gate-keepers will not notice or breeze over the fact that you didn’t work for two-years, think again. Human resources professionals and recruiters will want to know about the breaks in your job history. And, beware – if you attempt to fudge dates on your resume to create a seamless record, these trained professionals may seek to verify your timeline with past employers as part of their due diligence procedures.
In effort to turn your time-off or patchy resume in to a strength during the job interview process and convince interviewers that you’re still worthy of a shot at the job, honesty is often the best policy, as it demonstrates integrity – a trait prized by employers. Preparing well for questions that address such gaps is wise, and will help to boost your confidence.
The good news is that if you have advanced to the interview process in a job search, it means that employers are taking your candidacy seriously, says Ayesha Williams, director of talent and leadership development, Americas Ops USA, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean for Hilton.
“Hopefully you’ve done your research ahead of time and identified what the company values and which skills are required for the job that you’ve applied for,” says Williams.
“If so, when the employer questions your gap, use the opportunity to highlight the skills that you developed while you were on hiatus,” advises Williams.
You may want to address the hole or shift in your resume first – before your interviewer has a chance, so as to demonstrate your ownership of your choices.
“You could say something like…’ After I worked at X place, I invested twelve months in my personal development, which ties in to your company value of continuous learning. The time off work also allowed me to strengthen my social media and marketing skills, which I know are key to the success of this role,’” says Williams.
If you used your time off to analyze and organize your family life, to parent your kids, serve as a caregiver, volunteer or to return to school, on an interview, emphasize how such interim activities bolstered your professional status.
Highlight any certifications or trainings you completed, any consulting or freelance work you took on, and any other valuable volunteer experiences or passion projects you completed.
“Show how the time-off helped you to improve yourself and how it has put you in a better position to drive business results,” says Williams.