Filling in the Gap – How to Explain Unemployment

If you are looking for a job after a long period without one, you may find yourself stuttering when the interviewer invariably asks about the gaps in your resume. Even with hiring managers generally understanding the shake-up caused by Covid-19, there is a strong local work culture that reinforces the impression that everyone should be working all the time. As a result, when faced with a few blank months in the resume, it is only natural that questions will be asked.

However, these can be answered with tact and honesty. Remember, hiring managers and interviewers are generally familiar with every aspect of hiring and firing, and have probably seen far stranger things.

The important fact is that you’re here now. This is an opportunity for you to do your best, and convince them that you are the person they want.

Hence, whether you took were let go as your company downsized, or took a break from work to focus on other commitments, we have some advice on how to answer the tricky question, “So, why were you not working?”

Be honest

Don’t try to fudge the truth or tell a lie, you’ll be easily found out.

Honesty is the best policy. Being truthful about difficult subjects, such as retrenchment, will demonstrate your integrity and honesty to the interviewer.

You can answer frankly – with tact. Underline the reason you were unemployed and explain your actions moving forward. For example, if you had to undertake child-raising responsibilities, you should assure the interviewer that you have made suitable arrangements for care and it will not affect your work.

Be concise

Keep it short and sweet. Though there is a temptation to launch into a long story about how you were unfairly ousted due to so-and-so, a job interview is neither the time nor place.

We suggest keeping your story to just a few sentences, before transitioning to how you have improved your skills and prepared yourself for new job opportunities. We also recommend highlighting your achievements and responsibilities during your job transition and how they make you a good fit for this opportunity.

Did you drive for Grab, deliver food, or help a family business? Emphasise the skills you learnt from these experiences and relate them to the job posting to convince the interviewer you are a good fit, unemployed or not.

Emphasise readiness

Get yourself ready for the interview by researching the company thoroughly. That way, you can align your goals and interests with theirs, and better prepare yourself for what they might ask.

Talk about your readiness to begin work, passion for the industry and your enthusiasm for the position on offer. This will reassure the hiring manager that no matter what happened in the past, you are available now and looking forward to contributing to their organisation.

In particular, you can focus on what you’ve learned from the experience of being unemployed, how you’ve grown as a professional and how you intend to apply these learnings to a new position.

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