How to Explain These 6 Resume Gaps in an Interview

If there are gaps in your work history, you can be sure that potential employers will be curious and want to ask about them in your interview. These 6 common resume gaps can be easily explained away if you know what to say. Follow this helpful guide to formulate an answer that will put employers at ease and help you secure a great new job.

1. Taking Care of Family: Sometimes, you have to prioritize the care of an ill family member or your children and that’s perfectly reasonable. The best way to explain this gap is to mention that you evaluated your priorities, did what you had to do, and kept your professional skills up during that time. Now, your priorities have shifted and you’re ready to refocus on your career.

2. Laid Off or Fired: While you may think it’s embarrassing to talk about being laid off, most interviewers will be sympathetic and understand how common it is. As long as you don’t badmouth your boss, focus on the positive things you achieved at the company, and explain why the lay off occurred (budget cuts, company downsizing, eliminated your project/team), the employer’s mind will be put at ease. If you were fired or the only person laid off, the strategy is similar. Focus on the positive things you achieved, on what you learned, and don’t give in to the temptation to badmouth your previous company or boss. Explain that it wasn’t a good fit for you and tell them why you think this new position is a much better fit.

3. Quit Before Finding a New Job: Most people who quit before finding a new job have a good reason. Maybe the company culture was toxic, maybe their former boss was volatile, maybe they realized they needed to move in a new career direction and wanted to focus their efforts solely on their job search and skill building. Whatever the reason, find a way to explain that it wasn’t an impulse decision and give the employer a brief summary of your reasons without badmouthing or focusing on the negative aspects of your previous jobs. It’s always better to remain future focused in interviews, especially if you’re explaining why you quit your previous job before securing a new one.

4. Went Back to School: This gap is one of the easiest to explain because you worked hard, put your intelligence to good use, and achieved a goal. If what you studied is relevant to your chosen career and the position you interviewed for, mention how your new qualifications and knowledge will benefit their company. If the additional education is a more indirect fit, mention a few of the soft skills you acquired while studying and explain how those can benefit the company if you were selected for this position. When you frame your newfound skills and knowledge within the context of how they benefit the company, employers will be eager to hire you and see your added value.

5. Time Off for Health Reasons: In this explanation, brevity is best. Prepare a straightforward explanation that you’re comfortable sharing and finish with a shift back to the present day, having overcome your health problems, and the relevant skills you’ll offer this company. The employer won’t expect you to dive too deep or expand upon this subject very much so don’t feel the need to over share and focus on the future, rather than the past.

6. A Sabbatical, Travel, or Unsuccessful Attempt at a Career Change: If you had a more unconventional gap in your resume due to a sabbatical, a long period of travel, or even an unsuccessful attempt at a career change a little more explanation may be required than for some of the conventional resume gaps. Stay positive, focused on the value you can offer, and prepare an explanation you’re comfortable with. In these situations, you should also be prepared for more questions, confusion, or interest from employers because they’re less common.

If you have a gap in your resume, you should anticipate the need to explain it in your interview. Employers are curious and eager to know the why because your reason will often put them at ease, especially if you focus on the skills and knowledge you can offer them rather them.