Interview Preparation

Almost any worker has employment gaps: due to switching in career, volunteering work or redundancy. If you want to turn these gaps into your benefit, just read our article!

Answering questions about employment gaps in an interview

Questions you may face

When you are invited over for a job interview, the hiring manager or employer will surely ask any questions concerning your gaps in the work history. You don’t need to panic, because there are multiple ways how to turn these questions into your advantage. But first let us tell you what these questions are:
- Why do you have a gap between this and that job?
- What were you busy with between working at company A and company B?
- Why did you spend so much time without work?
- What have you been doing since you quit the last position?

By the time the question is asked, you already need to have a clear answer that will turn any negative aspects into positive ones and will give the employer a concise reply.
It doesn’t matter what your reasons are: you need to explain what experience or skills you have gained, while you were having an employment gap. It is important to explain to the hiring manager that you were not wasting your time, but improving your knowledge and personality.


Fill blank spaces in your CV

You should always start with the work section on your resume or CV. Pay careful attention to every line you have written: if there are big gaps in the work history, it is better to include information about the positive influence of unemployment on yourself.
Remember, we are living in times of market instability, so it is quite common for most of the candidates to have one or several employment gaps in the work history. This means that these gaps most likely won’t influence your chances of being hired if you show that you are a worthy candidate.
The CV is the first thing the hiring manager learns about you, so you need to make it appealing without waiting that you will be asked about the gap. Fill it with a positive experience, so that the employer won’t think that you were just fooling around, while you were without a job.
This will increase your chances of employment and will greatly simplify the interview.


Make it a positive experience

With a 99% probability, you will be asked about your employment gaps. That is why you can address them in your CV and avoid tricky questions when having a personal interview. Until you can fill in those gaps, it doesn’t matter how much time you spent without a job.
Remain honest but make sure the employer knows that you were learning or sharpening your skills instead of watching TV all the time.
One of the most common and the simplest reason is that you were raising a family or attending school. However, you should still try and indicate that you have learned a few skills and not just spent days and nights singing nursery songs and making meals. Most likely you have learned how to manage your time, how to complete several tasks at the same time, how to approach a budget wisely or how to deal with conflicts. Make sure you indicate all of these skills in your CV!
The same applies if you have been taking care of a relative. You surely learned to communicate, to remain patient and to become more compassionate. Make sure you highlight those skills and features in your CV or during an interview.

Here are some other positive features of an unemployment gap:
- Learning foreign languages;
- Moving to another town or country;
- Participating in sports;
- Reading books on personal growth or in your field of expertise;
- Attending training courses to acquire a new qualification.
Any reason for the employment gap has a variety of positive aspects, so you only need to detect them. Remain honest, stick to the facts and the employer will surely appreciate it!


Unpaid or voluntary work

You should never underestimate the importance of unpaid or voluntary activity because it is a great way to master new skills. There is completely no difference whether you were getting a salary or not. Work always remains work and gives you a variety of skills and new knowledge.
Did you improve your skills in communication? Even if you think that such experience is irrelevant, make sure you indicate it in your CV and fill in the employment gap.  It will be a positive experience in the eyes of your potential employer.
You can include voluntary experience in the work history section of your CV.  If you can boast a long-lasting voluntary work or a variety of short-term projects, you can devote a separate section to it, giving more details on the skills you have gained. 
You can also list your experience of unpaid work in a chronological sequence. Such a CV will be much easier to read and the hiring manager won’t have any questions about your employment gaps. Because, well, you didn’t have them and were working!


We all know someone, who was redundant. According to statistics, every worker will be redundant twice during their career. That is why it is important to treat such experience positively and not to fall into despair.
It was the company, not you! It happens all the time, so you don’t need to scold yourself.  Make sure it is a positive experience, even if deep inside you are still stressed.
When explaining this reason try to be brief. If possible, keep the focus on the skills and knowledge you acquired throughout your previous experiences and explain how your transferable skills can be used in a new company.
Never say anything negative about the previous management or the company. Try to discuss only positive aspects about your role and why you think that you were lucky to work there. Say that you are looking forward to the things that life has in store for you.

Learn how to answer tricky questions

If you have already been invited for an interview, it means that the hiring managers liked you and you are already halfway through.
When you are asked about your employment gaps, make sure to remain honest and positive. The periods of unemployment are quite common, so it is very likely that the employer has already interviewed a few candidates with the same gaps. You need to remember that the hiring manager is not trying to test you and only wants to learn more about your experience and personality. Be confident and tell about the skills you have learned, while you were not working.
If you were fired or redundant, it is even more important to tell about the things you have been busy with. Even if you were sending out dozens of CVs just to find any job, try to hide this fact. It is important not to show that you were desperate. Instead, try to explain that you were taking some time to find a job that could match your interests and skills and that you wanted to make sure that you were choosing a proper career path.
It doesn’t matter whether you were out of work because of school, redundancy, volunteering or because you were switching careers. Your goal is to show that you want to become a part of the company and will be useful to it. Stick to the positive aspects, tell about all the skills and knowledge you have learned and make sure to emphasize that you can greatly complement their company. Remember that most interviewers also have employment gaps, so they understand you like no one else.


About the Author:

Juan Koss is a business coach, writer and digital strategist at DoMyWriting company. He loves his job because it gives him the opportunity to inspire others and share your thoughts with like-minded people.


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