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A recent graduate I know has not been working for 1.5 years after graduating with a graduate degree in Engineering due to taking care of ill family member/parent.

In the time of unemployment, they did projects using latest tools/programs to stay relevant and "train" themselves, which is what they would be doing at the job. They are in a highly in demand field in engineering with many opportunities right now and a graduate degree from a top 10 school.

Now they are ready to look for employment in industry.

How should they bring up this employment gap? Through a reference letter? On their resume? Won't HR just throw it out right away?

Any advice, tips or recommendations on how to get through HR? What should they do in the interview to address it?

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    @Kilisi Not all country make you pay big sum to have a good education, and since there is no country tag, we don't know if this is the case. Take the example of the Ecole polytechnique in France, which is in the top in the country and well ranked in the world, tuition is free and student even get paid. And aside, taking care of an ill parent might also not have been a question of money but personnal choice. Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 10:30
  • I had a 5-year gap in employment and got hired right away, no worries. Resume-wise, if you can combine education and self-activity into the timeline along with employment, it won't look as empty or gappy.
    – dandavis
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 19:02
  • Hi sheeple, we have a LOT of questions on employment-gaps. I haven't seen one that's an exact duplicate, but a lot of the advice you would get will be very similar. I encourage you to check out some of the other questions, since they might be pretty helpful!
    – David K
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 13:13
  • Age is a factor - this person is over 35.
    – user4434
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 4:43

5 Answers 5

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They might have been unemployed, but can still make visible in their resume the projects they worked on, if it is relevant to their application.

Before I switched field of work, I did some volunteering activity in the new field I was going to work, and just put that in my resume. I happened to meet my future employer right during this volunteering activity.

If the question comes to explain the gap in work, they can simply give the honest explanation along the line "I could not work because I had to take care of an ill family member, however I managed to keep myself up-to-date by doing these projects..."

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How should they bring up this employment gap ? Through reference letter ? On resume ?

Write a good cover letter, mentioning the reason for the employment gap. Google search leads to quite good ones. Modify it as per the needs.

In the CV, mention the time period when these projects where implemented and brief overview of them.

Let the recruiters see that though it is a gap, the candidate was not living under the rocks.

Won't HR just throw it out right away ?

Most of the companies are quite accommodating in this aspect. It is a big world out there. There is always one company that suits your skill set, employment gap inclusive.

If they chose to throw it away, don't worry. They have their own criteria. Nothing to resent about it.

Any advice, tips or recommendations on how to get through HR ? What to do in interview to address it ?

Be upfront about it; do not over explain yourself. Wrap it up in 2-3 sentences at the max. Send a point across to them that the gap is merely a number and it is the technical skills that needs to be emphasized on.

And mention the reason as personal in the cover letter/resume. If they ask, you can choose to specify the actual reason. But, saying personal reasons should send across the point.

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If the candidate has relevant skills and a personality that fits the company culture, a gap in employment should not matter.

Don't make excuses about your past. Everyone has a couple of skeletons in the closet. The purpose of a resume is to present your skills and ambitions to a prospective employer. Don't draw unneeded attention to non-merits. Some HR people will fuzz about a gap in activity, but it is their job to do a diligence check.

What employers would be more concerned about is if this is going to be a problem in the future (e.g. did the family member that was being cared for recover, or die, or do they still need help?). Personal reasons (or more specifically family matters) is a legitimate explanation. It could even be given a positive spin - that the candidate needed to get the family situation resolved first, so they could really focus on their career next.

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When you list your employment history, you add a line like "Feb 2019 to Jun 2020 - caretake for family member with terminal illness". If anybody questions that, you found a company where you don't want to work.

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Employment gaps will not be a major concern once you know how to handle them. These are my 3 tips to help with that.

My to-go tip is to adopt a CV format that does not follow dates and years, but rather focuses on displaying previous jobs based on importance. This way, the applicant will highlight his/her most prominent jobs they occupied before, rather than focusing on positions arranged by dates. This way, the employment gap as a topic will not even rise up.

If a job requires a cover letter, you can go on and explain in it the reason this particular employment gap exists. You just have to make sure that the reason will not affect your commitment to your future job.

As long as the employment gap is valid, you can handle it well by explaining it in interviews. If the topic is brought up, rather focus on the activities you did within this gap to stay well-updated within your profession (It can be as simple as taking lessons, online courses, staying in touch with your colleagues, volunteering, and so on).

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