HR AGENT BLOG
Thoughts and strategies related to HR Consulting, HR Outsourcing, HR Compliance, HR Oversight, HR Administration, HR Daily Tasks, Talent Acquisition, and Talent Retention...
In this economy, I meet many candidates with gaps in their employment. Often I am asked, “What should I say when employers ask me about my employment gaps?”. Here is my advice…
Let me start by saying, you should not feel embarrassed that you have employment gaps; especially if you did everything you could to secure employment but (for a short period) you were simply unable to find a suitable job. That said, take care not to misrepresent your employment history in an attempt to cover up any gaps. It is what it is and it happens to the best of candidates.
Employers will often ask questions that are difficult to answer. They are not judging you personally, but rather judging whether or not you are the best candidate for the job. So set your embarrassment aside and give an honest answer. Before you step into the interview, you should already have a solid answer to the questions -
I see that you were unemployed in 1998 for 3 months... What lead to that period of unemployment? What did you do during your time off?
It feels like a slap in the face to be asked such direct questions, doesn’t it? I know. But, becoming defensive in an interview isn’t an option. The best way to deal with questions like these is to be PREPARED (before hand) for them. Most people become flustered when faced with these sorts of questions because they are surprised by them or because they secretly hope they won’t come up during the interview. Truth is, 99% of the time, these questions will be asked early on in the interview. Being prepared to answer the question means that you have an honest and well thought out answer that you’re ready (and willing) to share.
Relate to the interviewer on a human level. Look him/her in the eyes, take a deep breath and say -
“Mr. Smith, while working for ABC Company in 1998, I found myself laid off. That was a particularly difficult time given I really enjoyed my work there. Over the next three months, while looking for a new job, I volunteered at XYZ Community Center helping to feed the homeless in my neighborhood. I also took that opportunity to enroll in an advanced excel course and now can perform functions like vlookup and pivot tables.”
See what just happened? You successfully answered the question and turned the interview back toward your skills. Now the path is set for you to explain why you'd be perfect for the job! Remember, every question can be used to your advantage if you simply remain calm and stay focused. And, every answer you share will give the employer insight into your skills or insight into your personality demonstrating -
- How you deal with stressful situations
- Who you really are (when facing difficulty you do things to help others and/or better yourself)
- How you’ve successfully overcome past adversity
There are a number of acceptable reasons you might have been unemployed. Perhaps you weren’t laid off, maybe you took time off to –
- Raise a family
- Take care of a sick relative
- Go back to school to finish a degree
- Address a personal health issue
Whatever the reason, be ready to state it to the employer. Obviously there is no need to go into excessive detail about who was sick or what your health issue was. The point is that you are prepared for these questions and know how to answer them. Prepare for the interview - maybe even call a friend to help you stage a mock interview. Remember, fortune favors the prepared!