How to Explain a Large Job Gap

John Krautzel
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Potential employees have myriads of things to consider during a job interview. One point an interviewer may mention is a long job gap in your employment history. The best ways to work around the employment gap include honesty, brief explanations, activities undertaken during unemployment and positive reactions to the issue.

Honesty is the key with any job interview, and explaining a long job gap is no exception. Tell your potential supervisor precisely what happened and why without going into too much detail. Downsizing, family issues and job dissatisfaction are normal parts of life, and your interviewer should understand this. Plus, the recession of 2007 hit all sectors of the economy, so long bouts of unemployment were the norm for several years. How you handled the downtime presents the perfect opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.

During your brief explanation for this aspect of your employment history, state what happened during the long job gap. For example, even though you were out of work at least you applied to five places per day until your opportunities expired. Once the job interviews ran dry, you volunteered at a local organization, became a stay-at-home spouse, freelanced or took a class. Be sure to mention these activities in your cover letter and/or resume so your future employer has a heads up before the interview. Even better, use your volunteer coordinator or class instructor as a personal reference. You can even brush up on your interviewing skills during your unemployment period.

Tell your interviewer how you left previous jobs that led to the long job gap. A brief sentence or two suffices, unless the interviewer asks for more details. If you were fired for a personal issue, turn it into a positive. Your former manager may tell the current potential employer you had anger issues, difficulty concentrating at work or a lack of production. Turn this into a positive by saying you have worked on these issues since then. You read articles, took yoga classes, learned to relax, worked out twice a week or put aside your lackadaisical attitude. There are several ways to provide a means by which your employer can see you have worked on any personality issues.

Focus on the future of your employment by turning your faults into a success. Reiterate how your past issues turned into learning opportunities you bring to this new job. Explain how the time off from work invigorated your energy to become the best possible employee. Positive attitudes mitigate any negative aspects of a long job gap because employers want positive people working for them.

No one likes to deal with stress in a job interview. How you handle the nervousness may be one key to landing a job or waiting weeks for the next interview. Turning a long job gap into a life-changing opportunity, and explaining this to your potential supervisor in a positive light, removes the negative influence of that experience and turns you into a winner.


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Cathleen - thanks for your story. Unbelievable the way some facilities treat their people. I am so sorry that you had to endure that and so glad that you got out of it. Is is possible to go back to being an XRay tech? Maybe that would be the answer. Maybe a different type of facility would be better. I hate to see you give up what you obviously love. Keep looking and have faith that THE position will fall into your lap. Wishing you all the best.

  • Cathleen P.
    Cathleen P.

    I'm having a very difficult time finding employment. First of all I changed careers from xray technologist to registered nurse and once I became a RN I have found it hard to secure GOOD employment. Sure lots of nursing homes will take you but then you are branded and after a few years nobody will hire you for anything else. I have experienced so much deceit in the nursing field, for example my last position I interviewed for was RN Supervisor for the 3-11 shift. After a 2 1/2 wait period to get on the schedule I was told not asked that my shift would now be 11-7. For my personal life that is very difficult especially with a closer family member having Alzheimers. Additionally I was told it was every other weekend which once I started it was every weekend! I also told the Director in the interview that I needed to be able to attend mass as this is very important to my faith and well being especially after the death of my brother. She agreed and told me "We can accommodate that" Well guess what? They didn't and they could have cared less. I was put on the night shift and oriented for 5 days by 3 different people on my 6th night I was solo. Nobody asked if I felt comfortable in doing so, after all I was responsible for the entire facility of on average 110 patients, 4 LPN's and 4-6 CNA's. Many of them had questions of how to do their job taking care of the residents and I was there to help them, ALWAYS. One night I went in and was assigned to work not only as the RN Supervisor but additionally as a staff nurse with the responsibility of passing meds from 2 different carts. Well the patients were most important to me and then getting their medications in time and as needed. The supervisor duties I did most of but was unable to accomplish all of them I simply couldn't. I get so taken advantage of and when I done with the director of nursing she had no sympathy and said other people do it. These others had been at this facility for 4 and 3 years. I was there for two weeks! To top it all off the interim ADON was just nasty and she screamed at me one morning about paper work that I had nothing to do with. That was her normal behavior. After being there for 4 weeks I was told "You don't fit in, and alot of other things" when asked what the others were I got no answer, I also inquired why I did not fit in and I was told because I didn't get my paper work completed 1 night. I am so tired of the nursing field it I'd ridiculous! When I worked in radiology and you interviewed, the job was what was explained in the interview. I di believe I'm returning to my roots where I will feel much more appreciated. Good bye nursing!

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