Quitting a bad job before finding a new one, being made redundant or taking some time off from work to take care of a relative. These are some of the reasons why there can be a gap in our employment history, that can seem difficult to explain during a job interview.
However, recruiters are used to dealing with candidates that have been through this type of situation, and it is nothing to be concerned about. Most of the time, it is not the break in the employment that is detrimental to your chances of getting a new job, but the way your CV is presented. It can mistakenly create a lack of understanding of your roles, responsibilities, abilities, and decisions.
It is important to understand that when a recruiter is asking why you are looking for a new job / want to make a career change or wonder about that gap in the years on your CV, it is just a part of their process. They would like to make sure that they have as much information as possible about your background and being transparent will support your position should questions be asked later in the process.
The reasons why people are unemployed are often similar and recruiters are familiar with them: if you were laid off because that year the economy was terrible, a new senior leader came on board and replaced the team or something bad happened in your field, if, or maybe the company was acquired or merged, or simply went out of business.
On a personal level, employers completely understand a career break to be a full-time parent, medical issues for yourself or another family member, or even if you decided to be a part of a start-up but later realised it wasn’t for you. If any of these situations apply to you ensure you are simply presenting what is already known. Don’t go into additional details about your time off unless you are asked about them.
There may be times when a previous job transition embarrasses you because you left the job on bad terms, or it exposes a mistake from your side. Don’t let negative emotions influence your interview responses and openly present the reason without going into the full story. Focus on the positives and what you learnt from that experience and how you can apply it to your future role.
The impression the recruiter will have of you is influenced not only on your answers but also the style you choose to present them. Body language, active listening, the tone or how confident you seem will influence the overall feeling that the interviewer will take from you.
The secret for success in a job interview isn’t just about having a strong CV or giving the best answers. Frequently, the winning candidate is someone who was able to build a better rapport with the interviewer. Don’t forget, while explaining your background or any career break, to make a personal connection: making eye contact, smiling…
I always advise candidates to prepare for discussions about their work history, and know that questions about any employment gaps will not make or break a hiring decision.