How to Explain Employment Gaps

employment gapsMany of us take time off from working for one reason or another. Whether it’s to raise a family, travel the world, seek a new opportunity or something else, there comes a time when we need to explain that “employment gap” to potential employers. Employment gaps often raise suspicion among hiring managers, but with a simple explanation you can easily dispel their doubts. ITAC Recruiting Manager Karsen Wilford, Business Development Manager Nolan Griffin and Market Leader Kemper Trull shared their advice on how to best explain employment gaps to potential employers.

  1. Honesty is the best policy.

“When speaking to a potential employer about a gap, honesty is the best policy,” Nolan said. “If you’ve been struggling to secure interviews, waiting on the right fit, or received offers but turned them down, don’t be afraid to lay all this out on the table.”

“Just be honest, appeal to the human aspect of the job search, and make sure the interviewer knows it’s not for lack of trying or lack of interest,” Kemper said. “Everyone knows it’s not easy finding a job, regardless of how skilled or talented you are. If your gap is due to circumstances outside of your control (layoffs, outsourcing, company closure, etc.), it’s unreasonable to assume you should have a job instantly upon being unemployed.”  

“Above all,” Karsen said, “Be honest and assure the potential employer that you’re ready, you want to be there, and that you’re the person for them to hire!”

  1. Provide a thorough explanation.

“Just explain, but not in too much detail, what you’ve been doing,” Karsen said. “You want the employer to realize you’re dedicated to getting a new job and committed to sticking around.”

“Explain what you have tried to do during your unemployment and what you have learned throughout the process,” Kemper said. “Maybe you began the process as an extremely selective candidate and gradually came to realize that you needed to widen your search parameters; maybe you weren’t getting results early-on in the search and later sought help from a career coach or a great recruiter; maybe you thought that by posting your resume on the jobs boards, you would receive calls – then later realized the importance of networking.  Whatever the case, it would be beneficial to be able to explain that you actually learned something valuable about yourself or about the business world, in general, throughout your time away from work.”

“Don’t be afraid to put something on your resume that explains a gap,” Nolan pointed out. “For instance, if you took time off to pursue a Master’s degree, include a line item explaining that (i.e. From 2016-2017 was pursuing Master’s degree – see education).”

  1. Prove to the employer that you’re ready to work.

“One strategy I like to suggest to job seekers who are having trouble convincing companies to give them a shot is to offer up a ‘working interview,’” Kemper recommended. “Tell the employer that you are just looking for the opportunity to prove yourself and are willing to come in for a day (or a week even!), unpaid, to show that you will be a quick study, showcase the skills you have, and let them assess your fit into their culture. This will take all of the guesswork out of the equation, and there is very little downside to the employer in this scenario.”

  1. Avoid gaps, if possible.

“Always leave a job with a 2 weeks’ notice in a fashion that allows you to secure a positive reference and letter of recommendation,” Nolan advised. “Even if you have a gap of ‘x’ amount of time on your resume, excellent references often help an employer look past them. You’d be amazed by how many people leave positions with a notice but no job lined up. This is an easy way to develop gaps in a resume…. ALWAYS have a position lined up.”

 “Obviously, try to avoid employment gaps,” Kemper offered. “Many people are afraid to take a temporary job for fear of ruining their resume, but the truth is that unless you fall into a multi-year pattern of contract work, it’s normally better to take on temporary work than to not work at all. This way, you are keeping your skills fresh and showing that you are eager to work. Plus, you may pick up a new skill, new professional reference or impress your contract employer so much that they find a permanent home for you somewhere within the organization or refer you to another organization.”

Overall, don’t hesitate to address and clarify employment gaps during the interview process. Kemper noted, explaining an employment gap “correctly, confidently and with a personal touch” is the best way to go.

ITAC Solutions is a recruiting firm headquartered in Birmingham with additional offices in Atlanta, Huntsville, Mobile and Nashville.  ITAC specializes in the temporary, contract, and direct placement of accounting, information technology, corporate and administrative professionals.

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