A question that we are often asked by Returners is “How do I explain the gap on my resume?”
Taking a break from your career to care for loved ones, raise children, or for any other reason is more common than you think. So it’s important to remember that taking time off doesn’t mean the end of your career, you just need to find the right way to address it.
Yes, it’s still common for employers to look at career gaps with some prejudice. But as the return-to-work movement grows and gains momentum, these stigmas and mindsets are falling by the wayside.
Here is our advice on how to address that challenging gap.
Don’t make ‘The Gap’ the focal point of your conversation
Returners often feel the need to focus on their employment gap more than they should. And it’s understandable. You’re worried it’s going to be a serious issue so you want to do your best to explain it away.
But try to view things from the perspective of the interviewer. The gap has very little to do with your ability to do the job. Unless of course, you spent time taking classes, getting certifications, or doing anything that will make you more valuable in the role to the employer. Then you’ll want to use your employment gap to your advantage.
Whatever the situation, avoid going into unnecessary detail about the reasons that you took a break and instead focus on your experience and the activities you engaged in during your break. Did you take online courses? Maybe you volunteered and helped manage people during the process. Give your hiatus the appropriate type of attention, before moving back to subjects that are relevant to your interview.
Being well prepared for an interview is a good thing. And being over prepared, especially in the case of a Returner, is even better.
You are obviously aware that a gap on your resume could be perceived as a negative. So it’s important to wow your audience on other fronts. Brush up on trends and advancements in your industry and arm yourself with a list of possible questions about your field that might be posed to you.
Ask your spouse or a friend to engage in a mock interview and collect honest feedback. Repeat this process until you are confident that you will ace your interview. Make sure you do your homework on the company. Research thoroughly all the work they have done till date and familiarize yourself with their brand promise and the company core values. Look up their social media presence to get an idea about company culture. Interviewers want to know how you will align with their company and will ask you questions along these lines.
Don’t sound desperate:
We know how much you want to get back into the workforce. But it’s important not to seem desperate. Remember, it can take someone who is not a Returner three months or more to find a new job. So give yourself permission to take some time. If you don’t, you may come across as desperate.
It’s okay to convey your eagerness to return to work. But do it in a way that doesn’t sound desperate. Highlight your motivation and readiness to return to work and explain how you will go above and beyond to hit the ground running if brought on board.
You can often reduce your search window by joining an organization like Women Back to Work or by seeking out companies that have re-entry programs.
Yes, you have taken a break from work. But you did it for a reason. And likely a very good reason. Be confident in the choice you made. Many companies would rather hire someone who weighed the pros and cons of taking a hiatus and made a smart decision than someone with perfect experience who’s bounced around from company to company because they can’t find the right fit.
Be confident and positive in everything you say. Don’t afraid to talk about how you planned to take time off and now you are ready to come back. And watch your body language and posture. Negativity is very quickly picked up on. So instead, make a concerted effort to smile brightly, sit up straight, and speak with confidence and authority.
While you cannot eliminate the gap on your resume, you can ensure that you are prepared to address it when asked to do so. Keeping our pointers in mind while appearing for your interview can help boost your confidence and will improve your chances of success.
Read our Women Returnee Job Search Guide