Based on insights into who is really getting the job (plus exactly how they do it), this podcast is a new and simple approach to job interview preparation. Each episode is only five minutes long. This way, you can make progress even if you only have a couple of minutes. It contains one specific topic, gives you the relevant background and a clear and simple, step-by-step approach to help you prepare the perfect answers.
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Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. I often hear from candidates that some of the most challenging interview questions are related to gaps in their employment history. Now, there might be different reasons why you have had a career break. It could be anything from voluntary leaves for personal or family reasons, a sabbatical, health issues, further education or difficulties finding a new job after a layoff (to mention a few). There is no one-size-fits-all answer covering all possible scenarios, but there are some important aspects that can help you find the best strategy to confidently address the questions the interviewer might ask you. So, let me show you a simple, four-step approach to help you prepare for your interview.
Step 1: The reason for the gap
Often, the best strategy is to start your answer by, in one sentence, giving the reason for the time off work. The key is to be as brief as possible without trying to justify it to avoid being perceived as defensive. For example, you could say: “I had to take some time off to care for a close relative who was seriously ill.” With this approach, you answer the interviewer’s question clearly and avoid giving them the feeling that you are trying to hide something.
Step 2: Self-development
In the previous step, you answered the actual question. Now, it is time to re-shift the interviewer’s focus and to use this question to demonstrate that you developed during that time, even though you were not on the job. Start by listing everything you learned during that period. Then, identify the learnings most relevant to the job you are applying for. Taking a sabbatical to travel the world might, for example, have helped you become even more open-minded, aware of cultural differences and better at communicating with people from different backgrounds. Caring for a family member might have helped you learn about patience and empathy, as well as develop your communication skills. And if you struggled to find a new job after a layoff, you may have developed a stronger sense of perseverance, resilience and adaptability.
Step 3: Other activities
It is not always possible, but if you have done any other relevant activities during the time between jobs, mention them. This could be anything from engaging in voluntary work, taking courses or certifications, working on personal projects, attending conferences, participating in online forums or discussion groups or reading relevant books or articles. By mentioning these activities, you can show that, during that time, you remained engaged in your field and proactive in your personal and professional development.
Step 4: Your answer
Combine the results from the previous steps into a compelling answer. Focus on the positive outcomes instead of any potential issues. For instance: “My father was diagnosed with a severe illness last year, and I quit my job to care for him. It was a challenging time, but it also helped me develop. I learned a lot about patience, empathy and resourcefulness. I also improved my communication and time management skills attended several webinars and completed three online courses on digital marketing to further develop my professional skills. Now, I am ready to get back to a full-time job.”
These were the 4-steps to handling employment gap-related questions. As previously mentioned, how to answer them depends on your specific situation. But, often, the best strategy is not to problematize the gap but to focus on how you used it to learn and grow. That’s all for today. Thanks for listening, and I hope this was helpful to you.