Let’s face it, life happens. Some life events we choose, while others are out of our control. Research shows that 9 out of 10 people have gaps in their employment history. This can be from a personal choice to leave the workforce, such as going back to school, caring for an elderly family member, relocation due to a spouse’s change in job, staying at home with young children, or changing careers altogether. Sometimes the gap is involuntary, such as a company downsizing and/or a reduction in workforce, company restructuring, medical issues, or a worldwide pandemic.
Whether your resume gap is just a few months or several years, here are some easy and important steps you can take while preparing for your first interview back.
- You will most certainly be asked why you were not employed during the gap in your work history, so BE PREPARED and have your answer ready. You want to address this head-on and, while answering, be honest and confident. Keep in mind that it is admirable to take care of a loved one who is ill, or to stay home and be the primary caregiver for young children. While explaining, keep your answers clear, concise, and to the point without oversharing.
- Focus on your experience and how it aligns with their job description. Prior to your interview, delve deep into the job description and tackle it one skill set at a time. When it comes to “show time,” you should be able to give your interviewer clear examples of how your previous experience aligns with what they are looking for in a candidate, and how it can help them as a company to accomplish their goals. Make certain to do your homework to understand the company’s mission statement and goals. Again, be confident and prepared.
- Discuss how taking the time off has made you a better person and prepared you to succeed in this job. Maybe you took some online courses, finished your degree, or started to volunteer at a new organization or school? Think about the new skills you gleaned while stepping away from the workplace. These can be soft skills, too (e.g., more organized, better listener who is better at prioritization and time management skills, etc.). Taking time off can definitely help us re-boot, re-focus, and re-prioritize!
- Let your potential employer know the steps you have put into place to ensure that you are ready and motivated to get back to your career. An employer wants to feel confident about your reliability and motivation for coming back to the professional workplace.
- PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!! With the aforementioned tips in mind, make certain you have many practice interviews under your belt prior to the real deal. Use your phone camera to video yourself. Have a friend or family member run a mock interview with questions related to the job you are interviewing for. Practice in front of the mirror. Sit up tall and straight, make good eye contact, and answer the questions directly by giving strong, concrete examples of your experience and expertise.
As a Senior Recruiter at McCann Partners, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Adams, who took a year off to stay home with her newborn baby. Ashley decided she was ready to return to work as a Senior IT Project Manager and started interviewing this past month. Ashley ended up with multiple offers, and when asked what she attributes to her success, she replied, ”Preparation. I also owned my truth as to why I needed time off. Employers respect that. I also did a lot of practice interviews, so I was confident in my ability to discuss my previous experiences and give clear examples. Luckily, I had kept my notes from previous projects, so I was able to refer to these projects. Another tip that was super helpful was doing a search on YouTube for project manager interviews. These videos were great because they asked questions that pertain specifically to what I would be interviewing for.” Well done, Ashley!! And Happy Mother’s Day to you and all the other hardworking moms out there!!