Regardless of the reasoning, the majority of people have to take time off work at some point in their career.
Getting back in the job market afterward can be tough especially if you are concerned about a resume gap in employment.
However, knowing how to explain your resume gap can turn a difficult interview question into an opportunity for personal branding.
Read these 5 ways you can explain away your resume gap in a way that shows positive growth.
These tips and examples help you prepare a well-rounded response to any resume gap questions you may come across during your job search.
1. How to explain you were laid off
Being laid off is more common than you think. An interviewer is more likely to show sympathy because you being laid off is usually out of your control.
Avoid negative comments about your previous company or boss. Focus on the positive accomplishments and the experience you gained while you worked for the company.
Bad Example: “My old boss really didn’t like me anyway. He always had it in for me. I am sure he jumped at the opportunity to cut me in the layoffs.”
Good Example: “The company had to implement major budget cuts. Unfortunately, my position was one of the many that were cut in the process. I am proud of the achievements I made during my time at the company. This can be reinforced by my manager, whom I listed as a reference on my application.”
2. How to explain you took time off to travel
Avoid focusing on the fun and excitement of traveling. Focus on how traveling contributed to your personal career growth and development.
Mention any paid or volunteer work that you had taken during this time and the additional personal and professional skills that you gained.
Bad Example: “If I could travel for the rest of my life, I would. I went deep-sea diving in the Galapagos, mountain climbing in the Himalayas and went to countless parties in Thailand. It was the most fun I have had in my life! I hope to do that again when I have the money.”
Good Example: “I worked from the time I was 16 and was very successful in my career. Yet, I was only working for the money. My travel experience gave me the opportunity to grow personally. I learned what my personal motivations are and how to be more globally-minded. I learned a new language in the process. Now, I am ready to jump back into my career with newfound energy, focus, motivation, and a purpose.”
3. How to explain you went back to school
This is probably the easiest to explain. If the education you pursued is relevant to your chosen career path, you have your answer.
Almost all mid to senior level jobs require a certain level of intelligence and educational background for career growth. Explain why going back to school has helped you get closer to your career goals.
Bad Example: “I still haven’t figured out what I want to do in my career. I decided to take a business course on a new subject. Going to school seems easier than trying to figure out what I want. I am still not sure if this is the path I want to take.”
Good Example: “When I got my bachelor's degree, I thought I was done with college. I started my career, and everything was going great but it suddenly came to a standstill, and higher positions required that I go back to school in order to achieve my goals. So, I decided to take some time to expand my education to broaden my career options. I’m looking forward to using my experience, newfound skills, and education to benefit the company I work for. ”
4. How to explain you had to care for family
Caring for family, whether it’s your children, an elderly parent or a sick relative, is a tough job that requires a number of skills, which you now have.
This includes time management, hard work ethic, managing people, and organizing schedules. These are only a couple of the many skills you gain while caring for a family member full-time.
In addition to the hard skills you already have, caring for a sick family requires soft skills, something that has been growing in importance to companies these days.
Bad Example: “I am the closest living relative to my mother, so I got stuck with having to care for her. I tried to hold down a job and care for her at the same time, but it was just too much for me.”
Good Example: “After a lot of consideration, I decided that I needed to prioritize family. During that time, I made sure to keep my professional skills up to date by taking business courses. Now, I am in a position where I can refocus my attention on my career, and I look forward to applying my previous experience and skills, as well as the additional soft skills I have learned, to my new role.”
5. How to explain you had to take time off for your health
Preparation is key here. Telling a detailed story of the health issue that caused you to leave work is only going to cause the interviewer to pity you.
Pity does not help your chances of landing the job. Prepare a brief and straightforward explanation that you are comfortable with. Explain that you were able to overcome this and quickly move the conversation to present day and the relevant skills you bring to the table.
Bad Example: “I fell and hurt my back. I had to go through undergo three separate surgeries, and I almost died twice in that time. It was pretty bad there for a while.”
Good Example: “I hit a rough patch physically and took some time off to focus on my recovery so that I could go back to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. Overcoming this challenge has made me stronger. I am ready to dive back in and focus on the next stage of my career.”