Interview panic question #4: Why is there a gap on your CV?

interview-cv-gapPractice makes perfect so we continue our series on how to answer tough interview questions with one that requires some forethought: how to explain a break in employment.

We’ve already posted a number of interview tips for the long-term unemployed last year, where we looked at how to explain an employment gap in a pro-active way (and also what NOT to say).

The key is to be accountable for the gap, even if it was through no fault of your own. This reduces the risk of the interviewer perceiving you as either a flawed candidate who can’t see what the problem is or someone who blames others for your own setbacks. Neither is a desirable asset in a new hire!

Work on articulating one or two solid reasons that will help address the perceived problem and allay a potential employer’s fears. For example, a legitimate reason for being unemployed for a long period could be a combination of: an economic downturn in your industry; mistakes you made in the job search process; new skills or requirements in your field; navigating a career change, and so on.

Owning this will show professionalism and the ability to overcome setbacks and learn from mistakes – which shows a proactive nature.

Having demonstrated accountability and understanding, this then gives you the opportunity to show yourself off in a more positive light. What did you do about it, how did you spend your time off, what did you learn?

For example, you may have retrained or adapted your skills, attended conferences, found a mentor or otherwise researched changes in your industry. Potential hirers will like to see that you didn’t drop the ball while you were job-seeking, plus this gives you the chance to shift their questioning onto other topics, such as how you keep on top of new developments and trends in your profession. Which you’ve researched, right? Right!

Of course, not all gaps are due to a long period of unemployment. Career gaps could be due to time spent travelling overseas, freelance projects or volunteering – all of which can be seen by hirers as useful experience.

Whatever the reason, if you’re not prepared then it’s easy to fumble your answers when sitting in the interview hot seat. Just be sure to show that you have spent your time off productively and to prepare a direct positive answer that allays any fears about your employment skills and capabilities – and you’ve nailed it.

Next question!

Image: (CC) David Davies/Flickr

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