18 months of downtime didn't effect my ability to work, I promise.
November 30, 2012 5:50 PM   Subscribe

How should I address a long gap (18 months) in my employment history during a job interview?

I quit my job a year and a half ago; partly for health reasons, but mainly because I was tired of the daily grind. For better or worse this has been by M.O., I get a job for a year or two, then take six months to a year off. Living on savings while between jobs. When I was younger I would take college courses while between jobs. So explaining the gaps wasn't a problem. But this time around I didn't do anything "productive".

So far I've been on three job interviews and didn't get any of them. Unfortunately, all those interviews where setup by a recruiter, so I have no information as to why I wasn't hired, and I have no way of asking. But I suspect it's the 18 months of nothing that's holding me up.

I have an interview scheduled for Monday morning. What should I say about this time? What shouldn't I say? What's the best way for me to answer, "Why did you leave your last job?"

I really need this job, so if you've got any helpful tips I'll take 'em.
posted by zinon to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking for a longer-term position this time, or do you think you might want to quit again soon? I wonder if you might consider jobs that are contract or shorter-term positions. I'm like you—I've left several jobs after relatively short periods. It's tricky. I don't have any great advice, and feel like I just got lucky with my current job.

It seems like people are generally hesitant to say they left a job for health reasons, though I personally don't think it's a terrible thing to say, especially if you could make it clear that it was a temporary issue that's resolved. What sort of work do you do?
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:13 PM on November 30, 2012

Your recruiter didn't give you any feedback? The companies most certainly gave them feedback, is there a particular reason why you can't just call up the recruiter and ask? This is actually easier than if you only interacted with the company directly.

I wouldn't just assume the reason you aren't getting the jobs is the 18 month gap though, if they had a serious problem with that they would have weeded you out immediately upon seeing your resume.

But as for the actual question, you can say you left for health reasons and that you are fine now. You can say that the last job wasn't a great fit for you and you could afford to look for something that was a better fit, then explain why you think this job is a good fit.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:20 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure the best way to frame the 18 month time out, but if you were pursuing a personal creative interest or project during this time, perhaps framing it that you wanted to give that goal a chance would get you past that red flag.

Reading your whole question, you mention that you keep a job for a year or two and then move on. Because of costs of hiring, training, orientation of new employees, etc, in this tight job market many hiring managers have choices, and may want someone who may stay longer than a year or so. You may want to emphasize that you are looking to "settle down" at a job or some such thing if it seems right. Alternately, as three_red_balloons mentions, looking for short-term work may be a better fit for you.
posted by artdesk at 9:42 PM on November 30, 2012

You wrote a book. If they ask, give them the first chapter. Easily write 35 pages.
posted by parmanparman at 4:42 AM on December 1, 2012

You were working on a start up, right?
posted by COD at 5:20 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the last two answers suggest a broader strategy that can be tailored to fit your specific experience. Just because you aren't employed or don't have a job doesn't mean you aren't working. What did you do in your 18 months off? If you did work, even if it were volunteer work, a personal project or some entreprenurial enterprise, you can include that on your resume. You say you didn't do anything "productive," but you put the quotes on the word. Take off the quotes, and think about whether there was productive work that you might reference in your current job search.
posted by layceepee at 6:21 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unemployment is still high, and 18 mos ago was even higher.

Repeat after me: Like many people, I've been suffering from the employment crisis in this country.

No one will ask further questions.

I was laid off, and it took me 18 months to get a new job. You're nothing unusual, and the "fact" that you were voluntarily unemployed is not known by anyone but you. OK, if they check, they'll find out you quit instead of being laid off, but all they really care about is that you weren't fired.

Also: the reason you've had 3 interviews and no call-back is: there's an employment crisis in this country. Seriously. It's not you.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:05 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

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