Don’t get caught by surprise — If you have a gap in your resume, an interviewer or recruiter will definitely ask for details.
Good news! A “gap in your employment” is not a career death sentence. Although the phrase carries a not-so-great connotation, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that life happens. You get fired, you quit your job to travel the world, you need to take care of a sick parent, the list could go on for ages. What’s paramount in these situations is how you present what you did and what you learned during your time away from work.
We turned to Jill Ozovek, certified career development coach and host of the Career Passport Podcast to learn about the 6 ways to fumble when explaining a gap in your employment:
1. Not crafting a compelling narrative
According to Ozovek, this is the worst kind of answer you could give to the “why is there a gap in your resume question?”: “I just got laid off and I’ve been trying to figure it out.” Why? Because there’s no story.
“Be in control of your story. Whether your gap was self-imposed or not, connect the dots and craft a story,” says Ozovek.
2. Not sharing what you were up to
Share what you were up to during the time in your gap, and emphasize all the learning outcomes during that period, aka, “help prospective employers understand your decisions made in your gap, and make sure it winds back to why you’re sitting in the interview chair.”
3. Blaming others and/or outside factors
Don’t point fingers at people or companies, and avoid talking about anyone in an unfavorable way. Even if the reason you quit your job was because of a toxic boss or terrible company culture, it’s best to leave that out. As Ozovek says, “Don’t throw shade.” Instead, Ozovek says to keep the focus on explaining what you realized about yourself as a professional individual.
4. Not using LinkedIn
A resume and cover letter are valuable real estate, so don’t try to stuff an explanation of the details of your gap in your employment in those documents. Instead, Ozovek recommends taking advantage of your LinkedIn profile to fully articulate the things you’d like to explain about your employment gap.
5. Not have curated a sense of curiosity about yourself and the world during that gap
Prove that the gap in your resume displays your resilience, curiosity, and interest in learning new things. Those are all qualities employers want to see in potential employees. If you were curious and motivated individual during a lull in employment, why wouldn’t you make a curious and motivated employee?
6. Failing to show an interviewer that you invested in professional development
As Ozovek says, “You can still do professional development outside a professional context! There’s no shortage of ways to continue to improve yourself. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t.” Use this time to take a class on a skill you’d like to learn, get certified in something relevant to your career goals, get coffee with people who have interesting jobs and learn from them. A gap in a resume can be an extremely beneficial time, so take advantage of it.