Everyone’s experience is different during their careers, and a gap in employment isn’t really that unusual, but that doesn’t mean employers won’t ask about it. This is how you can handle this topic in an interview.
Be Honest and Upfront About Your History
While it can be difficult to sugar coat a firing to a prospective employer, and you are better off not trying, honesty is truly the best policy. This is also true for lack of experience and an employment gap. Honesty is the best policy. Tell interviewers what happened as objectively and honestly as you can while remaining diplomatic of others involved. There are hundreds of reasons people get fired or take a break, and most employers recognize this.
Try to remain unemotional and objective when explaining what happened to a prospective employer. An interviewer is learning about and evaluating your response to difficult situations as much as they are interested in your documented employment history. The worst thing you can do is lie. Any lies could potentially be found out through background checks and reference checks and are reasonable cause for being let go.
Stay Positive When Talking About Past Experiences (even the Bad Ones)
Rather than blaming previous employers or bad-mouthing coworkers when explaining a firing to a prospective employer, keep your explanation simple and to the point. Focus on the facts, and try your best not to place blame. Taking responsibility for past mistakes and communicating how you plan to improve your interactions in the future will tell employers that you are ready to move on from the incident and that you are capable of taking criticism in stride and being constructive in your communication of difficult topics.
Describe What You Learned and How You Grew from the Experiences
Many professionals have gaps in their chronological work history. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t do anything between jobs. Surely you did not do anything during your gaps? Those experiences, those passion projects, or times invested in raising or assisting a family through tough times, provide very valuable learning opportunities that help shape professionals and make them core members of their future teams. Think about how you grew personally during your gaps, and incorporate those learnings into your job search. They are what differentiate you and make you unique. Rather than glossing over or trying to hide your gaps, leverage them in an interview or in your cover letter to explain how they shaped you as a professional and how they will help you shape your future career success.
Be Confident In The Value You Bring
While it can feel tough to talk about how you came to be unemployed, or why you needed to take some time off, don’t let that emotion get in the way of communicating your value. The bottom line is that even with gaps, you are capable of being a powerful force within a team. If a company doesn’t understand what curveballs life has to throw at even the most qualified professionals, then frankly, you likely don’t want to work there anyway. While answering questions about any period of unemployment can be uncomfortable, know that you’re not alone. Being prepared for whatever comes your way and having confidence in the skills you’ve attained during that break can go a long way to bridging the gap with poise and professionalism.