Explaining Work Gaps and Job Hops in the Interview

Work gaps or quick job hops sets the alarm bells ringing for a recruiter; so what can you do if you are caught in such a situation?

25 Nov 2021
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In today’s fast-paced life, many of us take a sabbatical from work for various reasons and some of us unwittingly get into a job hop cycle, while searching for the right job opportunity. Though you may have perfectly understandable reasons, a resume with work gaps or quick job hops sets the alarm bells ringing for a recruiter. So what can you do if you are caught in such a situation. Here are some tips on how best to handle the situation.

Handling Job Hops

Get the reason right

This is not an easy one to handle and most people try to fumble an explanation on how the boss or the company’s attitude forced them to change. This is not a good line to take, even if it is a true one. As reiterated in an earlier article ‘Why did You Leave Your Last Job?’, never portray your past company in a negative light, as this reflects poorly on you, and leaves the recruiter wondering if you would be saying the same once you leave them. However if the reasons are something beyond your control eg the financial situation of the company or a merger with layoffs, then honesty is the best policy.

Take action early

If you have a list of job hops in quick succession, it is best to minimize your image as a job hopper at the resume stage itself. For example if you have a history that reads like this:

Mar 2020 – Oct 2020 / Company A
Nov 2020 – Jan 2021 / Company B
Feb 2021 – Jul 2021 / Company C

You could possibly leave out the months and mention just the years, reducing it to:
2020 / Company A
2021 / Company C

Once you reach the interview stage, you need to convince the recruiter of your desire for permanence.

Describe the positives

Describe the learnings from your job-hops and how they are a part of your career building path. Never be defensive or apologetic of the changes. Rather briefly talk about what motivated you to take up the job and what you learnt.

Talk of permanence

Then move on to a job where you stayed for a long stint and talk enthusiastically of that. Draw a similarity between that place and the present in either work profile, company profile, work culture, whatever your research has shown draws maximum parallel with the present company or job, and mention that you are looking for a similar workplace/company/job. This will help convince the recruiter of your long term commitment.

Explaining Work Gaps

Opportunities gained

If you have a gap in your resume – whatever be the reason – a sabbatical or lay-off, be honest about why there is a break. Then don’t in anyway be defensive or say that it was a wrong decision. Take a positive stand – whatever happens is for the best and talk about the opportunities the break provided you. More family time you had been missing out on, time to pursue a long forgotten hobby or just time to chill out and take a break so you can come back fully charged to take on your next career jump.

A conscious decision

Even if you were laid off, let the recruiter know that you have taken a conscious decision to take a longer break, as you wanted to carefully scan all your opportunities before making your next career move. You did not want to take up anything that came your way, even though you were laid off, as you wanted to think through your next career move and take up only what you keenly desire to do and then identify those companies you would want to work in. This shows you as a career conscious individual while reiterating your commitment to the job at hand.

Of course, you could add that with the recession the search has perhaps taken a little longer, but you are convinced that when you take up a job it will be right one and so both you and the company stand to gain.

Finally be convinced of your reasons in your own mind first and have a positive attitude as it will inevitably reflect in your demeanour and language. An interview is, at the end of the day not just about giving the right answers but getting your attitude right.

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