Life happens. Change is not always bad, and you can always find the "silver lining" in any situation.
These truths can be so difficult to remember or even believe, especially when put on the spot in a job interview. Unemployment affected millions over the last decade, and now that the job market is taking a really exciting turn for the better job seekers are finding themselves trying to figure out how to explain gaps in employment.
Fortunately for job seekers, employers aren't so surprised anymore. This has become the norm in most qualified candidates, so the trick is really using your explanation to stand out from the other qualified candidates who may or may not have gaps in employment.
Explaining Layoffs In An Interview
The most common explanation for a gap in employment is a lay-off. Employers don't want to hear about how you "got screwed" or were not valued. This is the opportunity to not only speak highly of your former employer but to also describe how well you handle change. Explain to the hiring manager that this company restructured, downsized, or hired new management because it was time for a positive change. Then continue with describing what you did next.
For example, "Company A was struggling to move forward, so management felt the need to restructure. While I hoped that I could move forward with the company, management had to make some tough decisions. Since the layoff, I've been staying up to date on industry trends and even taken a few computer classes."
Explaining Going Back To School In An Interview
There are times when going back to school and working full time are not realistic. Many people do this, but it can be too difficult for other people who may prefer to dedicate all of their time and effort to one thing at a time.
Taking time off work voluntarily to finish a degree that is needed to move forward in your career is not unheard of and employers will understand. If you handled a layoff by returning to school to better yourself, employers will equally understand and love to hear that you are so focused on personal and professional development.
You can explain this gap in employment to a hiring manager by focusing on how your time away makes you more qualified for the role you are interviewing for.
For example, "Although I had a comfortable career with Company A, I hit a brick wall in how far I could advance in my career. I left voluntarily to return to school and finish a college degree in ____. This was a huge step for me, and it was well worth it. I'm now looking for a great opportunity with potential advancement to fully leverage my education and newly developed skills."
Explaining Self-employment In An Interview
Self-employment is on the rise. The percentage of freelancers, entrepreneurs, and new small business owners is steadily climbing. Some hiring managers are still somewhat concerned with hiring self-employed candidates for realistic fears:
- Will this candidate be hard to manage since he/she hasn't had a boss in years?
- Will this candidate be leave in a year because they only need this job to make ends meet temporarily?
- Will this candidate still be working on the side for competitors?
Instead of directly listing self-employment on your resume, you can really help yourself by listing the company name (if possible) and a descriptive title, such as Accounting Specialist instead of Founder. If you didn't operate under a doing business as name, this experience may be better presented in a career note describing your related skills.
Once you're in the interview, try to downplay our self-employment. Focus on your accomplishments and major contributions rather on operating a business independently. Explain how this new role fits with your career goals. The key to instilling confidence in your loyalty is focusing on the future.
Explaining Family Caretaking In An Interview
Whether you took time off to be a stay-at-home parent or to care for an elderly parent, this is a very common circumstance that employers are not surprised by. You could easily impress employers by describing your transferrable and related skills that you used to be a successful family caretaker.
A few examples include time management, task management, child supervision, scheduling, appointment setting, etc. Just make sure to give solid examples that reflect a more professional interpretation of these skills.
For example, "While I was taking care of my sick mother, I was in charge of scheduling her appointments, organizing her mail, and coordinating her housekeeper and landscaper for six months. Managing her affairs required me to hone my organization skills which would greatly help me excel within this administrative role."
Explaining Your Return From Retirement In An Interview
Many retirees are returning to the workforce. Those with a specialized skill set have an easier time standing out with 20+ years of experience and a solid portfolio. Retirees can also describe activities they have participated in over the years. Describe any time you spent helping others or bettering yourself.
For example, "During my retirement, I was an active volunteer at the local elementary school. I answered phone calls and assisted with filing in the office. I was able to spend my breaks in the computer lab to stay up to date with word processing, spreadsheets, and Internet research practices. I also helped several teachers coordinate field trips for the students."