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Gap in employment? Don't sweat the job interview

What to do if you don't know what to say about your time away from the workforce

by Heather Mundell  |  11812 views  |  0 comments  |        Rate this now! 

When we're interviewing for a job, we usually have a few questions we hope an interviewer doesn't ask. For instance, if we have a gap in employment (which is not uncommon, especially among working moms), we worry about how it looks and how we'll explain it.

It's easy to feel unsure and on the defensive when we anticipate being asked, "So, what was happening from May 2004 through July 2005?"

If you were out of the workforce by choice, chances are this was for personal reasons (medical leave, family leave, worked as an at-home parent, etc.) It's a delicate balance to preserve your privacy yet also be straightforward.

Be brief and factual when you talk about your time away from the workforce, highlight the positives, and bring the conversation back to your qualifications and interest in the job for which you are interviewing. If you learned new skills or continued to develop professionally, describe the details.

If it was not your choice to be out of the workforce, again it pays to be brief and factual in your description of the circumstances and to highlight any positives.

Also, everything you say in a job interview should be true, but you don't have to disclose every truth.

For example, the truth may be that the eight months you spent in a job search were agonizing, during which your confidence and spirits were low. You don't need to go into the details of your emotional state during a job interview.

I've worked with people who have felt not only unsure but plagued by how to explain the employment gap in their resume. If you still aren't sure how to explain your resume gap, try these steps:

1.) Explain to someone (or to yourself in the mirror) in very blunt terms why there is a gap. Don't sugarcoat and don't put a spin on it -- just be brutally honest.

In this way you get your baggage out of your head and onto "the table" where you can see it.

Examples of baggage could include:

  • I did a really bad job of looking for work after I was laid off, so it took a while.
  • My boss didn't like me, I was fired, and it has taken a really long time to find a new job. I feel like a loser.
  • I quit without any other job in hand and regret my rashness. It took a long time to find work and I think that looks bad.
  • I was at home for six years with my kids and really didn't think about my career at all.
  • I was trying to make a career change, but was unsuccessful. Now I feel I need to get back to my old career, and I'm not happy about it.
  • I was depressed and unable to work. Now I'm much better but I don't want to tell anyone I was depressed. It isn't their business, anyway. But what do I say?

About the Author

Heather Mundell is a mother of two daughters and life and career coach. Visit her online at and

Read more by Heather Mundell

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