1. Why do you have many gaps?
How to talk about employment gaps
There are a few easy-to-follow guidelines for how to address gaps in your employment history:
1. Be prepared to talk about it
Having a gap on your resume won’t necessarily prevent you from moving successfully through the interview process. But potential employers will expect an explanation. Take the time beforehand to work out how you can address the gap in a way that projects confidence and positivity.
2. Be honest
You want to be truthful without going into unnecessary detail. A basic template for your answer could be: “I [reason you were not employed]. During that time, [what you did during the gap]. Returning to work was top of mind during that period and I’m ready to do that now.”
Here are some examples of how you might fill in that template based on your situation:
If you left the workforce to be a caretaker
“I spent some time at home to take care of my granddad. During that time, I was able to be there for my family but always knew I wanted to return to work. I’m ready to do that now.”
If you were laid off
“My former company underwent a restructuring that resulted in my position being eliminated. To be honest, it was a difficult time. But I left with the confidence that I had developed important skills there and built strong relationships with my managers and colleagues. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to apply those experiences in my next job.”
If you were fired
“The company and I had different expectations. In reflecting on that experience, I realize there are some things I could have done differently. I learned a great deal, and I’m excited about the opportunity to bring that maturity to my next job.”
If you took time off for personal reasons
“I was able to take some time off work to focus on myself. It was a time that prepared me to take on new challenges. I’m incredibly excited about the opportunities that lie ahead, such as this position.”
2. "Why do you want to leave your current job?"
1. Be clear about your reasons for leaving
Take time to write down all the reasons you’re looking for a new opportunity.
After you’ve written your answers down, circle a couple of key reasons you want to give in your interview. You should select reasons that stand out as professional rather than personal. For example, you may be looking for a new job because of a recent life change such as a marriage or move—these are not the reasons you should lead within the interview.
2. Keep your answer short
Though it’s important to fully answer your interviewer’s question in explaining why you want to leave your job, keep your response to around one or two sentences. Then, point the conversation back to why you’re the best person for the job.
3. Stay positive
Even if negative experiences have informed your decision to leave a job, it’s extremely important to find a positive way to explain your desire to move on. Employers want to hire problem solvers who can work through difficult situations. Focus on the skills you learned in your current role, good relationships you may have built with your coworkers or positive interactions you had with customers or stakeholders.
For example, instead of,“I don’t like my manager. I’ve tried talking to him, but it looks like I have to find a new job,” try something like, “In my current role, I’ve learned many new skills. I’m looking for a position in which I can continue to grow that skill set in new circumstances.”
4. Be honest without being too detailed
When answering this question, you don’t need to go into all the details. If you find your current job unsatisfying, there is always a way to share that without disparaging your current employer. Keep your answer focused and short, and move the conversation back towards why you are excited about the opportunities ahead of you.
It’s important to keep in mind that the company you’re interviewing with may contact your previous employer, so what you’ve told them should be in line with what they’ll learn in those conversations. If you’re unemployed, be honest about that situation as well. If they get in contact with your previous employer to confirm start dates, salary range or get a reference, this could hurt your chances of getting the offer if you’ve provided different information.
3. "I’d like more pay."
Think carefully about whether this is the reason you want to share—it can be interpreted by interviewers in a number of ways that can be hard to predict. If you decide it needs to be addressed, try framing it in a way that focuses on the larger topic of incentives and your motivation to take on challenging work that comes with big rewards:
“I’m motivated by a lot of factors, and client satisfaction, as well as peer and manager approval, are at the top of the list. But compensation is also a motivator for me and I’m excited about the opportunity to sell a product I’m passionate about, exceed my targets and celebrate when I’ve surpassed my goals.”
Good reasons for leaving a job
There are many reasons you can and should explain why you’re looking for a new opportunity. As professionals grow in the workplace, there is a natural flow from one job to the next as people seek out new learning opportunities, career development, new environments and other factors. Let’s look at a few examples of good reasons you’re looking for a new job:
1. Looking for career growth
Depending on how companies are structured, some may provide more opportunities to grow than others. It might also be challenging to change teams or departments if you’re looking to grow in a different direction. The desire to move to a new level in your career is a common reason for leaving a job. Here’s an example of how someone in this situation might explain why they’re leaving:
“I love my role and coworkers, but I’ve come to a point where there are no longer growth opportunities on my team. Can you tell me a bit about growth opportunities for this job, and what the company does to develop employee careers?”
2. Desire to change career paths
It is increasingly common for people to explore several different jobs and careers in their lifetime. Whether you want to go back to school, change industries or pivot what you’re working on, changing careers is a great example of why you may want a new job:
“I’m looking for a new opportunity that doesn’t exist at my current company where I can develop and expand my account management skills.”
3. Identified a better opportunity
Perhaps you’re looking to leave your job because you simply have a better choice. Whether that means your work environment will improve, you’ll get better pay or the company’s mission is a better match your values, it’s reasonable to seek out a new work situation when a better opportunity comes up:
“Though I’ve learned a lot at my company, from my research about this opportunity, I can see that the position is a better fit for where I want to take my career—specifically, collaborating with cross-functional teams to develop innovative products for your users.”
4. Let go or laid off
This is a reality for many people and can understandably be cause for anxiety when it comes time to explain why you’re looking for a job. Take some time to prepare your answer and follow these guidelines:
Be truthful without going into unnecessary detail
Avoid using the word “fired” if you can
Explain what you learned from the situation
Direct the interviewer toward why you’re a good fit for the position
Here are two examples:
If you were let go:
“In retrospect, I understand my former employer and I had different expectations about what success meant in my role. As I reflect on that experience, I realize there are some things I could have done differently. I learned a lot, and I’m excited about the opportunity to bring that maturity to my next job. This role is in line with my skills and abilities, and the direction I’d like my career to take.”
If you were laid off:
“Unfortunately I was impacted by a company restructuring that resulted in a loss of 15% of our employees. In the meantime, I’ve been thoughtfully considering my next move, reconnecting with my network and researching opportunities. I’m excited about this position because it exemplifies the parts of my past work I enjoyed the most and will position me in the direction I’ve always wanted to pursue in my career.”
These are just a few of many valid reasons you should explore new opportunities. If you’re unsure about what your answer may communicate to interviewers, try to get feedback on your reasons from trusted friends or mentors.