How to explain reasons for career break in your next job interview?

by Aripriya Basu November 14, 2020
Reasons for career break

There are a lot of things to be embarrassed about in life, however, a break in your career is not one of them. 

So relax. 

If you do have a gap in your career be assured you are not the only one. 

Your Armani clad CEO was perhaps without a job for 6 months, and look at him now, shooting orders and sipping jasmine tea. 

So chill. All is cool. No hell is going to break loose because you were unemployed for a year or more. 

 But there is one thing you have to work on ( if you have not already started on it) and that is explaining reasons for career break. 

If there is a gap in your career graph, your next employer will ask about the same. That’s a given, but you don’t have to panic about it! 

He/she will ask for reasons for career break not for your kidneys!

But what would you say? 

Maybe the reason was lame, maybe you did not wish to work for some time. 

Can you be absolutely honest about it? 

Or do you lie? 

Or do you not show the gap at all? 

So many questions to explain reasons for career break, huh?

Alright, so let’s begin with some things that you must do to explain the reasons for career break.

Talk about it

Of course, you talk about the reasons for career break. 

There is no point hiding it. 

But yes, prepare for this question beforehand, for it WILL be asked. 

Whatever the reasons for a career break, let your interviewer know. Don’t worry, a career break rarely poses an obstacle in one’s career growth. 

While explaining the reasons for career break:

  • Look relaxed
  • Be confident and positive
  • Maintain eye contact with your interviewer

You did nothing wrong. So don’t shy away from eye contact and behave uneasily while talking about your career break. 

Be honest

“I took a career break to ride a Unicorn”

“I took a career break to take care of my ailing parents”

No points for guessing which one sounds honest. 

So, stick to real reasons, or if you don’t want to reveal the original reason, stick to realistic ones. 

Please keep the reasons for the career break as short as possible. 

You need not write an essay about it nor a Shakespearean play.

Ideally, it should be like: 

  • Reasons for leave
  • Skills learned during the leave

You can top it up with your desire to get back to work. 

This is a basic template that will work for every break situation. Be it lay off, firing, voluntary leave anything. 

Talk about your new skills

Though changing a diaper may not be a skill, changing a diaper, putting the baby to sleep, and designing a flyer, all within 1 hour can be one.

That is multitasking!

So do not beat yourself down thinking that you learned nothing during your time off work. 

If you have done any offline or online course, certification, voluntary work, or classes, do not skip out on mentioning those. 

Even if you have not picked up any hard skills, talk about the soft ones like better communication skills, analytical thinking, problem-solving ability, and such. 

But yes, don’t just keep it to saying, walk the talk. Give them instances when you used your soft skills to it’s best. 

Explain why this is the right time to re-enter the work field.

Even if you had taken a career break in your 40s, and now planning to rejoin, explain why you think it is the right time to do so. 

Oh no, you need not sit with diagrams and flowcharts to explain the reason backing your decision. 

Like everything else, keep it crisp.

Just mention that you have achieved what needed to be done and now you are ready to come back. 

This might also be the right time for you to highlight the reasons for career break if you have not done it so far. 

Things done

Though you need not fill up your interviewer about every detail about your career break, you can talk about how you stayed relevant to the industry. 

This is important because it shows that you are passionate about your work. 

It takes a great level of dedication to pursue one’s career path or even stay updated about the same while taking some time off of work. 

Your employers know that. 

So let’s spice up that cocktail by telling them that you kept in touch with your colleagues, regularly read about the updates in the industry, worked on some freelance projects, and such. 

But again, don’t just keep it at talking! Do all this if you are planning to take a break from work. 

This way you won’t be completely in the dark about the new trends and changes in your industry, and it will help you as and when you decide to get back to work. 

Steer the interview in a different direction

As mentioned earlier, there is nothing wrong with taking a break from work. 

It’s alright if you choose not to explain the reason. Indeed it might be something too personal and you may not wish to share it. 

So, once you have addressed the question and given a suitable answer, do not dwell over it. 

Instead, quickly divert the interview in a different direction. Remember, you are appearing for a job interview, not an “explain yourself jury”.

The best thing you can do is ask a question yourself. Ask your interviewer to provide some detail about the job that is not on the JD. 

Ask them what the company expects you to do if you do get the job. 

Move on

There is no reason to get worked up if you don’t get one job. There are plenty out there and it has nothing to do with your career gap. 

Had career gaps been the reason, more than half of the working population around the world would be jobless right now. 

If one opportunity goes another one will come. Don’t get all worked up and try to overexplain the reason for your gap. 

It was your decision, respect it. In the meanwhile check out the sample resume after a career break and make sure your resume is ATS friendly.

FAQs

Is a gap in your career bad?

It is not. But lying about the same can be awful. You can lose your job for lying on your resume. Employers will always verify your resume, and in this age of technology, it has become very easy for them to do so. Thus be very honest if there is a gap in your career. 

What is the maximum length of an employment gap? 

There is nothing like a very long gap per se. It greatly depends on the type of job you are applying for and on the firm. There are some firms that just focus on the eligibility of the candidate and do not ask questions about the gap. However, there are some that might start asking questions even for a three months gap.

How to get a job after a career gap?

Once you plan to return to work after a gap here are the things you can do:

  • Understand your situation
  • Plan your return to work well
  • Highlight your new skills
  • Redo your resume
  • Network better