During an interview, an employer’s main goal is to get a better understanding of who you are as a professional along with your professional history. You may encounter questions about why you left a job as well as questions about any gaps in your employment history.
Responding to your interviewer can be intimidating if you’re not sure how to address these questions. If you follow these 5 tips, you can leverage interview questions often thought of as “deal breakers” and turn them into an opportunity to make yourself a frontrunner for a position.
If you found yourself unemployed due to termination or lay off, that’s okay. It happens more often than you think. It is important to present the facts and remain neutral.
Your interviewer does not need to know every detail about your time outside of the working world, but they do need to know the facts. If you were someone who was laid off or let go, it doesn’t always feel good to share that information, and it can be tempting to want to cover that story up with a white lie.
Even though it’s tempting, try to refrain: Chances are you won’t lose out on the job by explaining the situation, but if you falsify your work history, you will lose out on the opportunity. Don’t lie, and don’t paint yourself as a victim; employers like professionals who show they can take responsibility.
Reassure Your Interviewer
If you have a gap in your resume because of reasons in your personal life, it is important to reassure your interviewer that their open position is your top priority, and the circumstances that obliged you to take a step back from the working world have been resolved.
For example, if you had to leave a position to care for a sick family member, let your interviewer know that the family member has recovered, acquired long-term care, etc. When a company makes a job offer they are making an investment in you, so it is important they feel confident they can depend on you to take on their job for longer than a few months.
How Did you Use Your Time?
A common question an interviewer might ask about an employment history gap is, “How have you used this time?” This is a perfect opportunity to share any skills or hobbies that you picked up. Did you seek additional training or certifications? Did you become involved in any networks or community groups?
The time off you had is valuable, and employers want to know that you took initiative and didn’t just sit around watching daytime talk shows and eating bonbons.
Just because you were not collecting paycheck doesn’t mean you were not working. If you cared for a family member or decided to be a stay-at-home parent, those are very important jobs that require a lot of hard work. Even though it’s not a traditional job, you’re still learning, growing, and gaining skills –skills that often are valuable if/when you are ready to return to the corporate world.
Think about the skills that are needed to be a successful caregiver: Would those skills help you lead a team, resolve conflict, or manage multiple tasks at once? I bet they would!
What Have You Learned?
If you found yourself unemployed due to termination or lay off, that’s okay. It happens more often than you think. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to present the facts and remain neutral.
When you are asked about a termination in your work history, it is more important to share what you learned and how you grew from the experience than it is to explain why it happened.
Remember, it is far more valuable to an employer to hire a candidate who has faced a challenge and was able to grow from it than it is to speak with a candidate who hasn’t experienced any professional challenges at all.
Professionals with gaps in their employment history are quite common. Even though you may see a gap in your work history as a blemish on your resume, remember that your interviewer has already read your resume and saw something made them call you in for an interview!
When you are asked about your work history, be careful not to overshare and remember to keep emotions and personal opinions out of your responses. Questions regarding your work history are a great opportunity to show a potential employer that you are a determined, responsible professional who is ready to rejoin the professional world and take on the new and exciting opportunities that lie ahead of them!