If you’re like most professional employees who graduated and launched their careers several years ago, your work history doesn’t exactly follow a straight path. Instead of telling a simple story or resembling a boring straight line, your record includes twists, turns, unexpected setbacks, swerves, and goal shifts. After a few years in the adult world, most of us have changed our minds, developed new and interesting passions, gained jobs, lost jobs, and spent some time on the market…probably more than once.
Most employers—especially those with experience—have no issues with resume “gaps”, or periods of time during your adult life when you haven’t appeared to be gainfully employed. But in the interest of due diligence, they’re likely to ask you about these episodes, and they’ll be sifting your answer for clues about your personality and work habits. Here are few moves that can help you inspire trust and reassurance instead of skepticism.
Be honest and direct.
If you spent a few years away from the office to raise a child, take care of a family member, attend to an illness or injury, or work on a personal project, don’t hide or spin this fact. This is a positive and a selling point, not a negative that needs to be swept under the rug. If you find yourself stammering out an apology for your life story or making excuses for who you are, something is wrong. This may not be the right job for you.
A long job search
If you’ve been on the market searching for work for more than a year, your employers may ask for more detail about your search. How hard have you been looking? What else have you been doing with this time? Again, as you answer, don’t apologize. Just give a brief, positive response and turn the conversation back to your strengths and credentials.
A lay-off or firing
If you were laid off from your last position, briefly explain the merger or restructuring process that brought this about, and make it clear that your performance and behavior played no role in the event. Most employers will understand this, and will even see this as a plus if you learned something or gained some key insights as a result of this setback. If you were fired due to your own performance or actions, expect more questions, and don’t shrug them off. Answer honestly and don’t make excuses. Take responsibility for any mistake or failing on your part, and reassure your current employer that this single episode doesn’t represent who you are.
Own your past, and if your previous job wasn’t a fit for your working style or personality, just say so. For more on how to keep your resume gaps from threatening your career, contact the job search experts at PSU.