How to Explain an Employment Gap in your next Job Interview

In this post, I'll share a key strategy that can help you address those tricky employment gaps during job interviews.

Whether you've experienced short or long periods of unemployment, I'll show you how to turn this drawback into an advantage 💪🏻


  • Reframe the question: Instead of dwelling on the reasons behind your employment gap, focus on the relevant skills and experiences you gained during that time
  • Share specific examples: Highlight how you used your time productively, such as developing new skills, volunteering, or working on personal projects that align with the role you're applying for
  • Stay confident and positive: Be honest about your employment gap, avoid sounding defensive, and emphasize your commitment to professional growth and the value you can bring to the company

Watch it in action

How to explain an employment gap on your resume

Explaining Employment Gaps: The Strategy that Works

Employment gaps, whether recent or in the past, can raise concerns in the minds of potential employers. They might question your reliability, capabilities, and commitment.

However, there's a proven strategy that can help you navigate these concerns and shift the interviewer's focus to your positive attributes.

The key to this strategy is reframing the question. Rather than solely justifying the gap, emphasize the skills and experiences you acquired during that time.

By doing so, you can shift the conversation from defense to offense, positioning yourself as a strong candidate for the job.

Personal Reasons for Employment Gaps

If you took time off due to personal reasons, such as caring for a loved one or yourself, there are valuable skills you can highlight.

Consider the multitasking, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities you developed in this role. Operating under stress and managing priorities are essential skills that many employers value.

For example, let's say you navigated the public healthcare system for medical treatment:

  • You can mention how you created a comprehensive spreadsheet to track appointments, deadlines, and other important details
  • You can also talk about how you conducted thorough research to make informed decisions about hospitals, clinics, and doctors

These examples demonstrate your attention to detail, project management skills, and proactive nature.

Professional Reasons for Employment Gaps

If you experienced a professional setback such as being furloughed, downsized, or having an offer rescinded, focus on your long-term prospects and commitment to finding the right job.

Highlight your desire to join a company that aligns with your values and goals, you can watch my “Why Do You Want to Work Here?” youtube video to help you out.

Sample Answer

An acquaintance of mine who had been out of work for 8 months, accepted an offer at a medium-sized marketing agency, he was asked about his 8 month employment gap during the initial phone screen by an HR representative.

After explaining how he was downsized due to broader market factors, and how his savings allowed him to spend a bit more time choosing his next role, he talked about how he admired the marketing agency’s decision not to let anyone go even when the entire industry was downsizing and instead they chose to cut pay across the board.

He also mentioned how he took free and paid courses on platforms such as Skillshare, Coursera, and Udacity to stay up to date on the latest digital marketing strategies, something he can immediately put to work in the new role.

As you can see, his upfront explanation of his 8 month hiatus, combined with his desire to continue refining his abilities even when unemployed, conveyed a sense of strong work ethic.

Additional Pointers for Explaining Employment Gaps

While implementing the strategy outlined above, there are a few additional pointers to keep in mind:

  1. Be honest: Misrepresenting your employment dates can easily be discovered during a reference check. Always provide accurate information
  2. Avoid defensiveness: Stay calm and confident when addressing the employment gap question. Acknowledge the interviewer's concerns and redirect their attention to your positive attributes
  3. Compose yourself: Start your response by acknowledging the need to discuss your activities during the gap. Project confidence and show that you're comfortable with your reasons
  4. Utilize your cover letter: If you want to be extra prepared, briefly explain your employment gap in a cover letter accompanying your application

Preparing for job interviews?

Check out my Common Interview Questions and Answers playlist!