The COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we know it, taking the unemployment rate to its highest level since the Great Depression. Jobs have slowly started to come back, and if your unemployment is due to the pandemic, no real explanation is needed. But even before COVID-19, employment gaps were extremely common. In fact, the average baby boomer had held 12 different jobs by the age of 52, according to a longitudinal study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Employers know that it’s simply not realistic to expect that every job will be immediately followed by another, with no gaps. They just want to know that you’re not likely to up and quit with no warning. Here’s how to address employment gaps in an interview.
Like any interview question, you will most effectively answer a question about an employment gap if you are prepared for it. Be careful not to rehearse a canned response, but instead think through the points that you want to communicate.
You should always answer honestly, but strive to put an upbeat spin on it. If you were laid off, talk about the strengths you had in the role. If you were fired, discuss what you learned from the experience. If your reasons for leaving were personal, talk about how you grew as a person during the time off.
Filling the Gap
No matter why you left or how long you were unemployed, you didn’t do nothing during that time. Did you freelance or volunteer or build a blog? Did you take a class or master a piece of software or lead a community group? Discuss what you did with your time and how it makes you more valuable in the workforce.
Controlling the Narrative
There is no reason to harp on your employment gap. Briefly explain what happened and how you learned from it, and then move on. You might share a story from a previous job or ask the interviewer a question. Taking control of the narrative helps to ensure that you don’t feel obligated to go into more personal detail than you are comfortable with. If the interviewer continues to try to press for more information, it may not be the right opportunity for you.
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