The Answers to These Two Questions Might Make or Break Your Interview

photo credit:  Tessa Neustadt

photo credit: Tessa Neustadt

Transition time in between jobs is common and isn’t necessarily bad, however it is important to figure out how to handle time in between jobs so it benefits you and doesn’t reflect negatively on your career.

Whatever the reason is for your temporary unemployment, you’re not alone; there’s at least one person out there in the same or a similar position as you. People will often be understanding about temporary employment gaps as long as you explain yourself.

Having a break in employment is okay, but be prepared for hiring managers and/or recruiters to ask you two questions:

Why do you have a break in employment?

What have you been doing/what did you do during this time?

The answers you provide to these two simple questions could make or break you in an interview. A recruiter for a nationally recognized company recently told me a story about a candidate the company interviewed. They initially thought she would be a great fit for the position because she had the qualifications, but she had a 6 month gap in employment. The employment gap wasn’t the deal breaker, however her answer to the question about what she did during those 6 months was. She gave a very vague answer that she hung out and relaxed with friends. That doesn’t sound like a bad way to spend 6 months, but it also isn’t a good answer to give in an interview. The company ended up going with another candidate who seemed to be more motivated and goal oriented.

If she had said something about how she wasn’t happy at her old position so she decided to take time to figure out what she really wanted from her career, things might have gone differently for her.

Perfect your elevator pitch about why you have a gap in your employment.

Elevator pitches are often used for companies and brands, but having a personal elevator pitch is also important. If you do have a gap in employment, come up with an elevator pitch to explain your situation.

A good example of an elevator pitch is something like this:

“I always thought I wanted to be in [industry], but when I got the position I wanted it wasn’t the right fit for me. I did learn a lot about myself and decided to take some time off to figure out what I really want from my career. I did a lot of research, and I’m ready to take on new challenges with this role.”

An answer like this shows that you made a conscious decision to leave your job for your longterm benefit and have since taken steps to ensure you’re moving towards the right career path. This answer shows thought, confidence, and ambition to reach your goal.

When you’re thinking about how to handle time in between jobs, answer the following questions:

Is there something you could do during this time that would benefit your career in any way?

Could you volunteer somewhere? 

Could you take a class?

Could you learn a new skill?

Is this down time worth it to you?

The point of answering these questions is to put value on your time and make it useful. Volunteering, taking classes, or taking up a hobby will not only help you make use of your time, but it will also help you give a good answer about your time off when asked in an interview.

 "Put value on your time and make it useful."

Tweet this.

Stay active. 

While you may not be working for profit, one of the most important things to do when you’re in between jobs is to stay active. Start volunteering for a local charity or at local businesses/community centers.

When you have a large employment gap and you’re looking for a job, the worst thing you could do is sit around. Staying active in your community will give you something to put on your resume and it will help you network. You never know who you’ll meet and who will notice your work ethic. A recent government study found that volunteering is associated with 27% higher odds of employment.

Volunteering isn’t only about networking, but it gives you something current to put on your resume. If the first thing someone sees is a large employment gap, your resume may get overlooked simply because of the fact that there is nothing current on it. However, if you start volunteering, you can use that to fill in the time where you weren’t working. 

If you haven’t done anything in your transition time, come up with a good reason why:

If you have just been sitting around, you better come up with a good explanation for it, or you can kiss your chances of landing that great job goodbye.

An example of a good answer as to why you didn't do much during your transition time is this:

“While I learned a lot at my last job, it wasn’t the right fit for me, and it became draining. I made the decision to leave that position, take time for myself, recharge, and figure out my next career move. Over the last few months, I have really focused in on what I’m looking for in a job, and that is x, y, and z. Now that I’ve had the time to recharge, I’m ready to get back into the swing of things and follow my passion of ___.”

If you’re going to take time off, make it worth it and clearly explain your reasoning in an interview.

A native San Franciscan, Michele Lando is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and founder of She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals' application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your resume, style, and boost your confidence.