It is hard enough to go through a long period of time without a job. It is made even harder when that time you spent not working affects your ability to find a job in the future. Employers often ask applicants “Why do you have such a large gap in your work history” and it is tempting to answer “because companies like yours won’t give me a job.”
Reasons for Gaps in Employment
People have employment gaps for a variety of different reasons. Some of these reasons include:
- New baby
- Drug addiction
- Living off savings
As you can see, the list of reasons people spend away from work is quite long. None of these reasons – not even the “taking some time off to vacation” reason – is something the employer wants to hear. Prison means you may not be trustworthy. A new baby means new responsibilities. Living off your savings means that, if given the choice, you would prefer not to be working (much like everyone). All of these add risk to your applicant profile.
How to Explain These Gaps in Employment
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the best thing to do is prepare an answer ahead of time to any questions about gaps in employment. They also recommend that the answer be honest.
Honesty is important in a job interview. If you have been to prison, it is a good idea to disclose that information in the manner described in the article. However, honesty is not as important if the answer is inane and cannot be disproved. For example, if you spend six months not working because you preferred to live off unemployment for a while and rest, you probably don’t want to share this with your interviewer. Honesty is important, but it is only important when the answer matters and can be proven. Whether or not you went to prison matters and can be proven. That you were a little lazy and didn’t try hard to get a new job cannot be proven and doesn’t necessarily matter.
The article in the WSJ has some sound advice, but it’s okay to stretch or bend the truth when there is no actual evidence of why you were out of work for that long.
Take Away Interview Tips
- Be honest when you were in prison, or in another country, or some place that can be proven.
- Stretch the truth when you were simply lazy or just couldn’t find a job.