How do I explain a 4 month gap in my employment?
July 10, 2017 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I was laid off in early March due to downsizing. I was depressed due to the circumstances surrounding the layoff and other things in my personal life so I used my six weeks of severance pay to recover, and I've been dipping into my savings since. I'm finally up to kicking my job search into high gear, but how should I explain the gap? Honestly, I really wasn't doing much besides keeping my head above water emotionally, but I'm not above, uh, exaggerating.

I'm a good catch with a solid resume and references. I have no concerns that depression will hinder me from doing excellent work once I'm employed. I'm just afraid this will hurt my search, and of course I can't undo it so I need to spin it. If it matters, I was an IT Project Manager.
posted by AFABulous to Work & Money (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Four months isn't that long. And the question will likely be phrased like, "What have you been up to since the layoff?" And you might say: "I took the time to work on some household projects that had been waiting, I also visited with family and did some personal travel. I spend the time thinking about my next steps and networking. It was good to get a breather and a break but I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, I'm particularly interested in...." and then you put the focus back on the qualities that the job offers and you are interested in and how you meet those needs.
posted by amanda at 10:26 AM on July 10, 2017 [45 favorites]

4 months isn't much. Easily explained as "I was in the fortunate position of being able to take some time off"
posted by Ftsqg at 10:26 AM on July 10, 2017 [35 favorites]

Personal development.
posted by Nyx at 10:27 AM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you don't need to bare your soul but use it as a short opportunity to, you know, demonstrate that you're a person in a warm, congenial way.
posted by amanda at 10:27 AM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've hired people who were laid off. It is extremely common to have a several month gap, and I don't think employers tend to look down upon that. Taking some time to regroup after that kind of experience is totally normal. I don't recall ever asking someone about it. But if someone does ask for an explanation, the one amanda gives seems reasonable.
posted by primethyme at 10:28 AM on July 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

4 months won't even be asked about in an interview. It's nothing. If they do ask - you got laid off and are taking your time to make sure the next job is a great fit.
posted by COD at 10:34 AM on July 10, 2017 [16 favorites]

I agree that it's not concerning to have a 4 month gap. Especially in the spring and summer months. I'd use exactly amanda's script above.
posted by TomFoolery at 10:41 AM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Same with me, basically Amanda's script - working in the garden, thinking about my next steps, skills development (even though that was just reading a blog post on micro services).
posted by matildaben at 11:17 AM on July 10, 2017

I used to interview people. I never even gave a second thought to people with less than a 6 or 8 month gap. especially if it came in one calendar year. I assumed the person was a) looking for a good fit rather than any old job (i.e., not desperate) and b) was taking time to do all the things you don't get to do when working (e.g., visiting family, traveling, refreshing one's soul). I wouldn't worry about it AT ALL. If an interviewer does ask, say that you were doing the things that didn't get done when you were giving all you attention to your job -- call it a mini-sabbatical. (It makes you sound focused and like you're ready to give them all your attention!)

Good luck on the job search!
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:24 AM on July 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, one thing I have been legitimately doing is working on some trans activist stuff and managing a trans social group, however a study by the DC office of human rights found that putting trans activities on one's resume leads to much higher rates of discrimination, especially for trans men. So I'm gonna leave that out, unless I can be vague about it.
The applicant perceived as a transgender man with work experience at a transgender advocacy organization experienced the highest individual rate of discrimination.
posted by AFABulous at 11:28 AM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think you can totally be vague about the trans activist stuff. "I was able to devote some time to volunteering."
posted by mskyle at 11:33 AM on July 10, 2017 [8 favorites]

Yeah, if I were interviewing you, I wouldn't be bothered by four months. Plenty of people need time to regroup after losing a job. If you said you had been doing skills development during that time, I'd probably think well of you for it.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 12:26 PM on July 10, 2017

Nthing that four months isn't enough to worry about. If anyone asks, just say you were doing some volunteering while you evaluated your professional options. Then, after you find a new job, just put the years on your resume without months. E.g., 2013-2017 Company A, 2017-present Company B. No one will ever know that there was a gap.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:58 PM on July 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also as someone who hires people, four months wouldn't even generate a question from me -- if you were laid off, I'd expect a couple month gap while searching for a new job, even if you were delivering pizzas or something I wouldn't worry about there being a gap in your history. If it's a career-level job, I wouldn't expect you to jump for the first paycheck that comes around.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:41 PM on July 10, 2017

There is nothing wrong with not working for four months. There's nothing wrong with not working for four years. We are not obligated to work and it is fine to say so because someone who won't hire you because of a four month gap is actually not hiring you because of archaic bullshit reasons.

If you need a sentence to say when challenged, you can go with something extremely neutral and unchallengeable like, "I decided to take some personal development time and hadn't really ramped up my job search until recently" or just "I was looking for a new job." Don't apologize, don't fret over it, answer this question as if you are a person very satisfied with and refreshed from your personal development experience. If you want to talk about your volunteer work, you can, but if you don't want to just leave it at that. I mean, if you were in jail the background check will turn it up, and there's nothing else that's any of their business.

You can add something bland onto that like "it's not unusual in the contract work world" or some other thing vaguely normalizing, but honestly if someone asks you that question they are either doing it because they only have osmotic management training and "everybody knows" gaps are bad (in which case it is fine to push back against that assumption because they should learn better) or because they think it's relevant in some way which it isn't and a company that thinks like that is generally very unpleasant to work for.

Really crappy people will try use it to try to weasel out not-HR-friendly stuff like a health problem (yours or someone close to you) or somehow otherwise divine that you won't be a good workerbee. Just own it: you didn't work in that time because you weren't working, that's why it's written on the resume that way, and no other information about it is relevant to future work.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:53 PM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would say that you used the time to volunteer. If you're scared you'll be asked specifically about what type of volunteering, maybe have a more vague answer than "trans activism." Maybe human rights or civil rights? Otherwise, if you remain concerned, I would say you used the time to take a vacation or attend to some home renovation projects or whatever you can realistically get away with. I doubt you'll be asked. But if you're up to the job search again, maybe you can fill in the gap in your resume with some less controversial volunteering or freelance opportunities. Maybe they will help you with networking too?
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:01 PM on July 10, 2017

Four months? That's nothing. I was laid off in January and started a new job today. Not one person in my interviewing over that period was even curious.
posted by General Malaise at 4:02 PM on July 10, 2017

If pressed (and you won't be, seriously), you could offer that you were taking your time to ensure that your next position would be a good match.
posted by General Malaise at 4:05 PM on July 10, 2017

I'd say you were freelancing, consulting and/or volunteering.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:24 PM on July 10, 2017

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