How to Explain a Gap in Employment

Blog / How to Explain a Gap in Employment

Without Oversharing or Under Sharing the Details

Gaps in employment aren’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s okay to take time away from your career. Some good examples of having a gap in employment include caring for a sick loved one, caring for a young child or maternity leave, pursuing a degree, actively searching for work but having difficulty landing a job, taking time off to travel, or trying to start your own business. 

While saying it’s “nunya’ business,” sounds fun in your head, inquiring minds want to know and a hiring manager will ask about a gap in employment and you’ll need to be ready to explain it. But it can be easy to say too much or too little about a gap in employment. So how to explain a gap in employment with just the right amount of details? 

Here are top tips for explaining the gap without over or under sharing.

1 | Be Prepared!

Sorry if you now have Scar’s titular song from The Lion King stuck in your head, but the single biggest thing you can do to ensure you don’t overshare the reason for your employment gap is to prepare your answer. The hiring manager doesn’t want to hear about your six month adventure backpacking through Europe that was sparked by a rough breakup. But what they might want to hear about is how that time inspired you and what you learned on your trip that can be applied to the job you are interviewing for. If you took time away to take care of a sick family member, keep the details and your grief over their passing to yourself. Strangers often don’t know how to deal with grief, so spare them. 

2 | This Isn’t a Mystery Novel

Don’t shroud your gap in employment in mystery either–this isn’t a Sherlock Holmes novel. Be honest but don’t get into the weeds or the details. Offer an explanation, such as, you took time off to spend with your kids, you needed to decompress after several high-pressure years in your field, or that you needed to care for a sick family member. There is no shame in any of that. But remember that there is a difference between explaining and justifying. You don’t have to justify why you stepped away from your career. 

3 | Involuntary Gaps Aren’t a Black Mark

Life happens and involuntary gaps aren’t a black mark on your record. Some situations are out of your control, such as needing time off to manage a health condition, being laid off or a job search just took longer than expected. Speak honestly and you’ll often find that recruiters will understand. Many people have been impacted by similar things in the past. Don’t make it a sob story, but being honest can evoke empathy and understanding. 

4 | The School of Life

Life can be one of the best teachers. So don’t be afraid to talk about what you learned during your employment gap that can apply to the job you’re interviewing for. These can be hard skills you learned while taking classes or obtaining a certification. Or they can be soft skills like adaptability, problem solving or critical observation. Remember to show, not tell and offer concrete examples. You want to illustrate that you have grown during your unemployment gap so highlight it and be confident in yourself! 

5 | Move On

There’s no reason to dwell on an unemployment gap. Address it, highlight the positive outcomes by speaking to what you learned during that time and how it can help you in the job you are applying for now and move on. There is no need to let a brief moment in time define you or what you are capable of bringing to a company.