Binge watching Netflix is not a valid explanation for gaps in your resume. While a prospective employer may understand, and even sympathize with an unexplained period of inactivity in your employment, you will need to put a positive spin on these gaps even given the pandemic.
As an HR practitioner who has overseen the hiring process for over a thousand applicants during my career, I can say that it’s not uncommon for there to be employment gaps: periods without employment during a professional career.
Given the pandemic, business downturn and related organizational downsizing, these gaps may be more prevalent now. Yet, regardless of the difficult times organizations and individuals are facing, gaps in employment and how to best represent them remain the same.
Being prepared to answer an employer’s questions is key. Be honest (background checks will undoubtedly uncover untruths) and provide specifics on positive professional growth you’ve experienced. Here are some questions to consider when preparing for an interview:
• Tell me about yourself (A question more difficult than most believe!).
• Was this gap in employment a part of an organization’s downsizing?
• Was your position eliminated?
• Are you part of an organization’s furlough, an inactive employment period perhaps to be recalled to full-time employment in the future?
• How have you been spending your time during this period?
Depending on your circumstances, here are some possible answers. Be brief, maintain eye contact, and most of all, portray this time as an opportunity for your future. Your response must be practiced (much like an “elevator pitch”) so it can be delivered in a calm voice.
• Yes, I was a part of downsizing; however, being adaptable, resourceful and resilient, I’ve taken this opportunity to further my education in the hopes of accelerating my career progression upon reemployment.
• I have been spending this time focusing on the necessary certifications that my field or industry requires.
• This role did not take advantage of all of my knowledge, skills, and ability (KSAs) therefore, I am viewing this time as a blessing in disguise, to seek a position such as this one, more aligned with my present and future career desires.
• I am attending to my consulting or freelance business. It’s one I’ve always enjoyed in addition to my full-time role. I’m using this time to grow and provide services to clients in need and maintain an income. My goal remains full-time employment.
Don’t be defensive. Be optimistic. Given the unemployment rate during the pandemic, employment gaps are more common now than ever.
Martin Yate, an author I have followed and use in my courses, has some sage advice. Yate says we should all have a core career (the primary source of income), an entrepreneurial career (to follow one’s passions, use unique skills, and generate another revenue stream), as well as a dream career (So…What you would do if you hit the lottery?)
But most of all Yate encourages us to accept the ups and downs of our careers. He refers to “career buoyancy,’ or the metaphor of a ship in turbulent seas. We must be ready for the inevitable disruptions in employment during a lifetime that will likely produce some career “turbulence.” Regardless, we should always be ready and prepared to get back on track.
Richard A. Montanaro, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor at Manhattanville College who teaches human resources management, training and development, leadership, and related college to career topics. He has worked as a human resources and talent development executive in Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 organizations and is currently a career practitioner and consultant with Career Discoverys. He can be reached at Richard.Montanaro@mville.edu.