How To Strategically Talk About Resume Gaps During An Interview

Life happens. That’s why you could have some information or time gaps in your resume. But this isn’t a reason to stress. With an honest explanation to clarify the gaps, you can explain the story between the lines of your resume to an interviewer and your potential future employer. 

It’s important to address any employment gaps clearly and upfront, so that transparency is established early in the hiring process. Discover how to strategically talk about resume gaps in an interview, and secure your next opportunity.

Provide Honest Explanations 

"Hiring managers appreciate a short, honest explanation," says Healthcare IT Leaders Recruitment Director, Justin Couch. 

Career coach Sharon Armstrong backs up this point by stating in her book, The Essential HR Handbook

“Don’t hide it, explain it. During the entire process of conducting a job search, maintain your integrity and demonstrate it. Jobs come and go, but being known for being truthful - and conversely, deceitful - can last a lifetime.” 

While it may be tempting to come up with an elaborate response and talk about a lengthy project you’ve been working on during your gap in employment, recruiters, interviewers can quickly identify applicants who stretch the truth. 

If the truth is that you took six months off to allow your partner to go back to work while you stay home with your children or if you took 6 months off to finally check that goal off your bucket list to backpack through Southeast Asia, that’s exactly what your answer should be.

"Hiring managers have heard and seen a lot, and it's possible they've been in a similar situation," says Couch. "So I ask candidates to be truthful and trust employers to be empathetic."

Emphasize The Positive

Honesty brings us to our next point — positivity. 

A strategic way to spin an employment gap into a positive is by emphasizing the skills you developed during your time away from work. If you took time off in between jobs to travel and recharge, talk about the second language you may have learned during your foreign trips and how that can be applied to your future position. 

If you took parental leave, explain how you improved your soft skills like listening, patience, multitasking and how that can be applied to the position you are applying for. 

Remember that if you’re currently in the middle of an employment gap, that you should continue developing your skills. There are effective ways to frame resume gaps as a time for personal and professional growth, rather than just downtime. You can do this by volunteering, attending workshops, taking a relevant course in your field, picking up freelance work, or updating your certifications.

Secure Strong References and Referrals 

To wash away concerns your interviewers may have that a resume gap is reflective of low-performance level, make sure that you come prepared with solid references and referrals from past employers and managers. Despite your time off from working, your references can effectively explain to your future employer that you’re a committed employee.

If the interviewer hears about your strengths and abilities from another source, it will give them more proof and confidence to hire you. 

Don’t Overshare 

The key to strategically talking about employment gaps is to explain your answers confidently and concisely. While you should clearly explain your employment gap, why it happened, for how long it lasted, and what you learned in that time, you should leave out details of the brutal breakup which sparked your six-month backpacking trip around Europe. 

Another common example is that many people take time away from work to care for ill family members. Though a valid reason, it’s crucial to keep your answers short and sweet as to not become overly emotional and dim the excitement of the interview.

Close The Gap And Ace That Interview! 

By coming prepared with an explanation for a resume gap, as well as proof of high-performance level from prior companies, you will show your interviewers that you’re mindful of their potential concerns and that you’ll be a valuable addition to their team.

With these tips for strategically explaining your resume gap, you’ll feel more confident and prepared in your next interview. Be sure to continue your interview preparations by learning how to answer tough situational interview questions and secure the job of your dreams.