“So you have great experience—why did you leave your past job? Since that time, what projects have you completed?”
Many job seekers worry about being asked to explain employment gaps, and this anxiety is completely understandable. Whether this time is a result of being laid off or a decision to exit a toxic work setting, it’s important to help prospective employers understand that your skills are up-to-date or that you do not separate from a job simply because what seemed like a better opportunity arose. Recruiters are an important part of the job search continuum and best-fit candidates, but they are also human. If you are able to present a strong and authentic career narrative, recruiters can help position you for a job search success rather than impede your job search.
Talent acquisition professionals inquire about prior employment gaps to uncover concerns related to unsatisfactory performance, candidate motivation, career advancement goals and other external factors, whether they be COVID-19, the economy or company restructuring. These and other unprecedented events have affected the global economy, and employers understand why millions of talented professionals are out of work. In fact, many employers stand ready to assist.
In 2019, ResumeGo conducted research to analyze the impact of an employment gap on an applicant’s interview chances and discovered that people who provide a reason for an employment gap received nearly 60% more interviews. In fact, competent interviewers are quite satisfied with the following responses.
“I took some time off to care for and relocate an elderly parent, while overseeing virtual education programming for my children. I also prepared to re-enter the paid workforce by enrolling in Tableau visualization and UX design classes. Doing so will allow me to more effectively add value to _______ company’s overall strategy to increase customer engagement and conversion rates.”
This response effectively highlights the job seeker’s organizational and management skills and places a spotlight on a candidate’s continuous improvement. Capitalizing on LinkedIn Learning and other upskilling can help job seekers.
Take the time to develop and practice an honest response, reframe your personal pitch and you will ultimately feel comfortable and confident explaining an employment gap to others.
In addition to continuous learning and developing a personal pitch, here are a few additional suggestions to bridge the gap.
- Consider temporary or shorter-term project work. Access these opportunities through
- Recruiting agencies or staffing firms,
- job boards or specialized websites, such as FlexJobs, and
- On-credit, short-term, paid or professional virtual projects via the Parker Dewey micro-internship website.
- Seek contract work. While searching for something full time, contract work is a great option for those job seekers who possess extensive knowledge and expertise in a given field. To discover opportunities, reach out to former colleagues, recruiters and professional contacts and visit websites such as Upwork.
- Try volunteering. You can make a difference if you donate your time to professional associations, student associations or nonprofits. GoingGlobal’s city guide with detailed professional associations and nonprofit database is a great place to start.
For more information and to continue this conversation, schedule an appointment with a Center for Student Professional Development (CSPD) career coach.
Dilyara Kashaeva, MBA is an associate director of the Center for Student Professional Development at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. Dilyara advises graduate students on the rules of engagement of professional development and growth.