If you worry about employment gaps, it’s worth knowing that most interviewers, if not all, may see such details in your resume history. And that could happen if the hiring personnel is meticulous. Worrying about Employment gaps? Just be honest and you won’t lose an interview unlike when you try to hide something or lie. You could lose the battle in front of the selection committee, if you say - I just watched grumpy cat videos on youtube for months unless you are working as a freelance movie reviewer.
Employment gaps refer to months or years when you don’t have full-time employment whether it’s inside the company office or your home. Different companies have their own policies about employment gaps. They may or may not treat career histories seriously. Some companies treat a non-office based (freelance job) different from the office-based (inhouse) job.
Gaps can happen because of various reasons - job-hopping, lay-offs, recession, resignation, termination, and career shift.
Two types of employment gaps
This refers to major life changes such as:
This lasts from 1 month to 9 months. A person may have taken a short stint in freelance, part-time job, and training before transferring to another company.
Why employment gaps may mean an unspoken career issue?
- They may be concerned that you’re hiding something that could hinder your job performance.
- Being idle for months and years is not an attractive trait to employers and their HR. They’ll assume that you forgot your skills or you’ll be lazy in their company.
Should you worry too much about Employment gaps?
Employment gaps are not things to be afraid of but are life details that you should take seriously before you fire your resumes to hundreds of recruiters and job boards. Employment gaps make up the normal part of the career cycle. No two people possess 100% identical career history. Some things are beyond your control such as the economy, the temperament of the interviewer, competition, job trends, industry changes, and nature. You’ll be on the safe side if you say thoughtfully or honestly and make up for the things you can control (interview preparedness, dress, resume, and learning).
How do deal with employment gaps
1. Stay honest
Assume that interviewers are meticulous or might soon find your employment gaps if they do background checks. If the interviewer asks you about the specific days and months, say it truthfully.
2. Offer one or some of these reasons
Emphasize the positives of learning from the following activities during your gaps.
Reasons for Long-term employment gaps
Reasons for short-term employment gaps
○ Professional and skills training - You could have enrolled in an online course or in a physical school. When you studied, you demonstrate that you want to improve your career, sharpen your skills and land in a good job - things that employers value and admire.
○ Earned through a part-time/freelance job - Freelance and part-time jobs are acceptable as they show that you earned an income despite not having an office full-time income. You might have been doing these non-full time jobs: proofreader, moderator, home-based writer, and artist.
○ Took care of a relative (parent, sibling) - You resigned because you took care of one of your sick family members.
○ Started a business - You might have started a small family business such as a mini-grocery store, a sari-sari store, and e-commerce.
○ Medical or health issue - Medical issues such as type 1 diabetes and another life-threatening disease that demand withdrawal from a full-time job.
○ Volunteering - Joining groups such as Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds houses for the homeless, is an excellent way to learn valuable skills and show that you took your time productively even it’s an unpaid one. You could also add activities in the church or a community organizing.
3. Explain for the two types of the unemployment gap
- Long-term - You can tell about your major life events - you became a parent, cared for an ailing family member or went for medication because of a life-threatening disease.
- Transitional - Your obvious answer to this is that you’re looking for work. Sometimes you’ll run into situations - you got fired, laid off, just graduated and resigned. Job hunting can be time-consuming and challenging.
4. Get creative and make your employment gap less obvious but be ready if the interviewer asks for further details.
Note: Some job board blogs/articles recommend this method while others don’t. This could backfire if your answers aren’t congruent with the details of your resume.
Use a functional resume - This type of resume highlights your experience and skills instead of your work history. It’s commonly used by job seekers who are changing their careers.
In the above example, you started as a warehouse assistant in January 2015 and resigned on February 8, 2019. You started at another company on December 15, 2019. You can make your 9 months less obvious by not showing the exact dates.
Note: The above example only works when the exact dates of employment aren’t brought up by the interviewer. If the hiring personnel asks you for it, be prepared to answer honestly and accurately. Likewise, you have to give your exact date of employment in job application forms or job boards.
5. Include training, classes, and seminars
Training, classes, and seminars look great in a resume and they emphasize that you prepared for your future job. Such skill-building activities could be online courses or outdoor ones - paid or free. Upon completing your training, you can print certificates and training details and bring them as credentials in your interview.
The bottom line
Resume gaps aren’t a big liability unless you had a criminal history (and that’s another topic). The truth will set you free whether it’s bad or good. By telling what’s behind your employment gap, you say to them that you are an honest and vulnerable person. Hiring personnel and employers will appreciate people like you who are making efforts to improve their lives. Being a person working for his/her dream is an admirable character.