How to Answer: "Why Haven't You Been Working?"

Posted in Career Best Practices

 

Feel like a deer in the headlights?

 

Like you're wearing a scarlet letter?

 

Like you have broccoli in your teeth?

 

If you're looking for a job and have a sizeable gap in your employment history, you might.

 

And it's perfectly natural. While you may have a valid professional or personal reason for being out of the workforce for awhile, a gap in work history is a big red flag to a recruiter. Even if you're perfectly qualified for a job, the recruiter may wonder about your commitment, reliability and work ethic – and may ultimately remove you from consideration.

 

At the end of the day, there's no good way to hide a gap in employment. So don't try to. If you're dreading the "why haven't you been working" question, do this instead:

 

IN YOUR COVER LETTER:

Briefly describe the reason for your period of unemployment.  You can get into more detail during the interview. 

 

ON YOUR RESUME:

  • Downplay chronology and bold the things you want to highlight.
  • Switch the focus of your resume to your skills and accomplishments – and away from your dates of employment. 
  • Consider using a functional or hybrid resume format, as opposed to a chronological one.
  • Obscure short employment gaps by listing the years, not months, you were employed.
  • Whatever changes you make, be sure they're accurate. If you lie about dates, it may come back to haunt you.


IN AN INTERVIEW:

  • Have your answer to the "dreaded question" prepared, so you don't look like a deer in the headlights. And be proactive. By broaching the subject of your employment gap up-front, you can control the recruiter's first impression of you.
  • Don't be apologetic. If you're a responsible, diligent worker, hold your head high. Remember, recruiters understand that unemployment happens for a variety of legitimate reasons – not all of which are under your control.
  • Accentuate the positives. If they exist, point out the upsides of your time away from work. Explain what you did to build your skills and maintain your employability – including freelancing, volunteering, traveling or taking courses. These endeavors might make you an even better candidate for the job you want. 


ALWAYS:

Tell the truth.  If you do nothing else, be honest about why the gap exists.  Merely having a resume gap is not a good reason to reject you; lying about it, however, is.  Prepare a direct, positive response which explains why you are/were out of work. 


Out of Work? 

Get back in the game with PrideStaff. With offices nationwide, we offer a wide range of temporary, temp-to-hire and other transitional opportunities that can keep you working while you search for your next full-time job.  Contact the PrideStaff office in your area to find out more about great local job opportunities.

 

Tags: Explaining An Employment Gap, transitional jobs, temporary jobs, find a job, Quick Jobs, national staffing agencies, employment agencies, national staffing services