How to Address Resume Gaps in an Interview

If you’ve had a gap in your resume, from a few weeks to years, you may be feeling anxious about how to address it in an interview.

Don’t be. There are ways to talk about a resume gap that will leave prospective employers feeling confident about your ability to do the job you’re applying for. It can even strengthen your interview if handled well. Here’s how to do that.

Know that you will have to address it.

Never assume that a prospective employer won’t notice a resume gap. It’s one of the items resumes are screened for.

Always be truthful.

Never try to fill an employment gap by telling prospective employers something that isn’t true. Background checks will reveal the truth.

Explain the reason if the gap is for a positive reason.

Some gaps occur for an easily explained reason, like returning to school to finish a degree, raising a family, taking time off to attend to a sick family member, or traveling. If you can easily explain it, mention it in a cover letter. It’s crucial to make clear that the reasons are now over (obtained degree, children grown, and so forth), and you are now eager to return to the workforce.

Once you have covered it in the cover letter, you simply pick up and expand on the explanation in the interview. Reiterate that you are now ready and eager to return to work.

Buttress your application if the reason is negative.

If you were let go from a previous workplace, your situation is slightly different. If you were fired, don’t mention it in the cover letter. It could conceivably get your resume screened out.

But all is definitely not lost. There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t occasionally screwed up at work or had trouble getting along with a supervisor.

There are two keys to addressing a gap due to termination. First, never, ever badmouth a former supervisor or company. Employers will assume that someday, you will do the same to them. Simply give a very neutral (and very brief) account of what happened.

Second, is it crucial to pivot to what you learned from the situation and what you can offer them now. Remember, all employers really care about is what you can do to help their company.

If you were let go for absenteeism, for example, stress that you have now learned the importance of being on the job every day. Indicate how you will ensure that you will be. This can be new child care arrangements or a better method of transportation. The key element is 1) you now can do better; and 2) you have a plan to do so.

Emphasize what you learned during the gap.

In the interview, talk about what you learned during the gap. And you will learn something, right? It could be on a volunteer job, caring for your children, or taking a course. If the interviewer doesn’t bring it up, find a way to work it in.

You can, for example, answer a question about dependability with “I learned how important it was to be dependable when I was coordinating volunteers at the local Walk for Health event…”

How a Staffing Firm Can Help

Thinking about a new job? A staffing agency can help. We offer advice on interviewing and more. We’re happy to assist job seekers in any way we can. Contact us today.