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Gaps in your work history don’t have to become obstacles to your career growth; however, depending on the length of and the reason for a gap, the unexplained chapter in your resume may attract the attention of a curious interviewer. You’ll probably receive some questions about where you were and what you were up to during your gap, and you’ll want to answer in a way that supports your prospects instead of holding you back. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

A resume gap isn’t a big deal unless you make it a big deal.

First, if your interviewer asks about a resume gap, there’s no need to start sweating as if you’re being interrogated by the FBI. You haven’t done anything wrong. A pause in your work history doesn’t amount to a crime or a sign of bad character, and if you’re asked about it, it’s because your interviewer is merely curious. Everyone has resume gaps; they just want to know the story behind yours. And you certainly don’t have to reveal any information that makes you feel vulnerable. If you’re embarrassed about your gap for some reason (maybe you were fired or laid off and it took you a while to find another position), share as much or as little as you choose and then move on. But keep one exception in mind: incarceration. If you spent time in state or federal prison during your gap, don’t hide this detail.

Emphasize any positive activity you engaged in while you weren’t working.

Did you volunteer while you were between jobs? Did you take classes? Did you work

part time

? Describe your growth during that chapter. But omit one important exception: Never talk about your family. Don’t reveal your marital status or any information about your children. It’s unwise to share family details during an interview, and illegal for your employer to ask about them.

Reassure your interviewer that you’re a fit for the job, gap or no gap.

In some

industries

technology evolves rapidly, and trends can change overnight. If you spent some time away from the workforce, your employer will want to know that you haven’t missed a beat or allowed your skills to get rusty. Provide some reassurance on this point.

Recognize red flags.

If your interviewer wants to know about a two-year gap that began in 2016, explain, reassure and discuss as much as you choose. They’re within bounds to express curiosity or concern, and it’s a good idea to communicate openly and put those concerns to rest. But if they ask about a six-month gap that took place in 2009, pause. This might suggest rigidity or intrusiveness that could represent trouble with this employer down the road. Ancient history should play no role in your discussion. Choose an employer that will allow you to grow and leave the past behind.

For more on how to shine during your interview and find the job that’s right for you, turn to the career management team at Extension.

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