Explaining a Long Gap in Employment: Tips for Your Next Interview


Madeleine Horton

“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” – Mark Twain

Navigating the challenge of explaining a long gap in employment can be daunting. Whether due to personal reasons, health issues, or simply taking time off for self-improvement, many professionals find themselves in the position of having to account for these periods to potential employers.

The good news is that many successful professionals have navigated this path before. This article aims to equip you with practical tips and strategies to confidently address employment gaps, ensuring you make a compelling case to potential employers.

Understanding the Concerns of Employers

Employers often view employment gaps on a resume with a bit of caution. Their primary concern is to understand whether the gap indicates a potential red flag in terms of reliability, skill level, or work ethic.

However, it’s essential to remember that employers are also aware that career paths are rarely linear and that a well-explained gap can often be seen as a sign of growth and maturity.

Transparency and honesty are crucial when discussing your employment gap. Being open about your reasons shows integrity and helps build trust with potential employers. It also provides an opportunity to discuss how the gap has contributed to your personal and professional development.

Preparing Your Explanation

Reflecting on your time away from the workforce is the first step in preparing your explanation. Focus on any new skills acquired, personal growth, or how your perspectives have shifted in a way that adds value to your professional life.

When structuring your explanation, aim to highlight:

  • Growth: What have you learned about yourself or your profession during this time?
  • Skills Acquired: Have you taken courses, obtained certifications, or developed new competencies?
  • Readiness to Return: Why is now the right time to re-enter the workforce, and how are you better prepared for your next role?

Strategies for Explaining Employment Gaps

1. Personal Development: If your gap was for personal reasons, such as health or family, emphasize the positive outcomes. For instance, discuss any new perspectives gained or how the experience has made you more resilient.

2. Professional Upgrading: For those who used the time for professional development, detail the courses or certifications completed. Highlight how these have equipped you with new skills or improved existing ones, making you a more valuable candidate.

3. Volunteering and Freelancing: Participation in volunteering or freelancing demonstrates continued engagement with your professional community. Discuss how these experiences have kept your skills sharp and expanded your network.

4. Tips for Crafting Your Narrative: Your explanation should weave your experiences into a narrative that shows growth, resilience, and readiness. Tailor this story to align with the job you’re applying for, demonstrating how your unique journey adds value to the role and company.

Dos and Don’ts When Explaining Employment Gaps


  • Practice your explanation to ensure it’s concise and positive.
  • Focus on the skills and experiences gained during the gap.
  • Be honest and straightforward about your reasons.


  • Apologize for the gap. Instead, frame it as a period of growth.
  • Get too personal or detailed about sensitive reasons for the gap.
  • Allow the gap to dominate your narrative. Focus on your strengths and suitability for the role.

FAQ Section

Q: How long is considered a “long” employment gap?
A: While there’s no strict definition, a gap of six months or more is typically considered significant enough to warrant an explanation during the job search process. However, the impact of the gap depends on how you’ve used the time and what you can demonstrate in terms of personal or professional development.

Q: Should I address employment gaps in my resume or cover letter?
A: Yes, it’s a good practice to briefly address employment gaps in your cover letter, providing a positive explanation focused on growth and development. Your resume should reflect any relevant activities during the gap, such as freelance work, volunteering, or education, to show continued professional engagement.

Q: Can taking a career break for travel or personal interests negatively impact my job search?
A: Not necessarily. Many employers value diverse experiences and the unique skills or perspectives gained from them. The key is to articulate how your experiences during the break have enriched your professional skills or personal growth, demonstrating relevance to your career goals.

Q: How can I make my employment gap look positive in an interview?
A: Frame your gap as a strategic decision for personal growth, skill acquisition, or pursuing interests that have long-term benefits for your career. Be prepared to discuss specific examples of how the gap has added value to your professional life, such as learning new technologies, languages, or soft skills like leadership and adaptability.

Q: What if my employment gap was due to involuntary reasons, like layoffs?
A: It’s important to be honest about involuntary gaps, focusing on how you’ve used the time productively to improve your skills, network, or explore new career paths. Employers understand that layoffs are a part of the business cycle and value candidates who show resilience and proactive growth during these periods.

Q: Is it okay to have multiple employment gaps?
A: Yes, it’s okay to have multiple gaps, as long as you can explain them positively and demonstrate continuous professional or personal development. Employers are more interested in your trajectory and how your experiences have prepared you for the role you’re applying for.


Employment gaps do not define your professional capability or worth. Instead, they can highlight your resilience, adaptability, and the continuous pursuit of growth. With confidence and a positive explanation, you can turn a potential weakness into a compelling part of your professional narrative. Remember, every candidate brings a unique set of experiences and skills to the table—your employment gap is just one part of your story.