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During one of my previous background investigations, the interviewer had noted on my file that I had no questionable gaps in my employment history that I needed to explain to them. At the time, I had been unemployed for near 6 months, which I would consider a lengthy gap in employment (although not quite a "gap" yet since there was no starting point on the other side yet). There was also a 1-2 month gap at my previous job where I had quit and then re-applied for a different position at the same company.

Is there any normal period of time being unemployed that will cause employers to start questioning why you were unemployed for so long? How much do gaps in your employment history affect your chances at getting a job?

  • It sounds like you were able to explain what you did in those 6 months without going into much detail. 6 months isn't that large of a timeframe. I would consider 9 months without a job, a very long time without a job, and indicates something happen. As somebody else pointed out, the length of time depends on how detailed the security check needs to be, sounds like the interviwer was not worried about 6 months ( likely because you explained the situation in person ) and they simply took notes. – Ramhound Jul 18 '12 at 16:27
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    Also there are circumstances that affect the other applicants (poor economy & high unemployment rate) as well, so relative to them, 6 months may not be so bad. – user8365 Aug 27 '13 at 13:05
  • you took a long time off, supported by your responsible financial habits, to travel and personal self-development... – amphibient Jan 10 '17 at 20:57
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Gaps in terms of months is generally accepted and understandable. When they start creeping towards years you probably have some problems as in "why won't anyone hire this guy" kinds of problems.

There really is no exact norm or science here on when an unemployment gap is too long. In the end it is all in the gut of the guy going through the job applications, and there are other much more important factors to assess someone by.


Some words of encouragement:

Don't let the gaps put you in a rut or use them as a metric to determine how you perform. In situations where you work as a contractor or something alike being "put on the bench" sometimes happen (as @jcmeloni mentions in the comments). During periods of unemployment or downtimes you really should give yourself the time to "expand your horizons" by working on a pet project and/or learn new things. If anyone asks what you've done during the gap, then you have something positive to talk about.

  • 6
    Agreed; was going to write my own answer but it would've repeated this. I have been interviewing people all week, as a matter of fact, and many of them have been out of work for 3, 4, 6 months because they were contractors before, the contract ended, it didn't get picked back up, their agencies aren't helping them very much, competition is fierce, etc. Because I understand all of that, their employment gaps mean nothing to me (besides making me want to give them all jobs because they're capable!), but if more of a gap, I would start to probe further. – jcmeloni Jul 18 '12 at 12:30
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    Often an employer won't/can't ask the reason for the gap, but would love to hear that you had a genuine reason - 'I took friend/parent/child on a grand tour of Europe before their illness prevented it', 'I started my own company to learn more about business but this taught me to stick to what I'm good at - getting the work done' – JBRWilkinson Dec 5 '13 at 16:26
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    It's not about how long a candidate was out of work, but more about what they did with their time off. I was laid off in 2008 and used that time to attend school full time to finish my Master's degree. No employer is going to see that as a negative. – DLS3141 Jan 11 '17 at 15:25
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I would answer this question in more general sense.

You don't need to worry about the gap as long as you have an explainable excuse.

It really depends on the economy and the nature of the job.

Say you worked in the financial industry and you had a year gap between 2008 and 2009, no one would question you. If you were unemployed in 1999 and were a web designer back then, everybody would raise an eyebrow. If you have not found a good job in Greece this year, everybody understands.

If you do have a quite long gap and don't have a good reason for it, just say, "I was looking for a more challenging job," during the interview when asked. Don't ever volunteer to explain it without being asked first.

12

Gaps in CV that are in years would general raise some questions like "were you working during this time?" If it was months, perhaps it wouldn't be so bad.

Locality of the job also have different gap periods before it rings alarm bells. In Europe, 1-2 months is OK, anymore would require some explanation. In Asia, the gap could stretch up to about 6 months.

To overcome this, I would suggest to include a short sentence on as to why there is gap. ie

Nov 2002 - June 2003: I took time off to look after my wife who was involved in an accident.

or

Nov 2002 - June 2003: I was made redundant when my company was shutdown, and I spend this time re-educating my skill set.

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    Not all countries in Asia are the same. In some Asian countries, people have to leave their country to get a job elsewhere. Not all countries in EU are the same either. Finding a job in German is different from in Greece. – scaaahu Jul 19 '12 at 4:59
  • @scaaahu cultural differences must be taken into account if you are applying for a job in a different country, but I don't fully understand your comment with regards to gaps in CV. Could you explain a bit more? – tehnyit Jul 19 '12 at 20:41
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    I was responding the part in your answer "In Europe, 1-2 months is OK, anymore would require some explanation. In Asia, the gap could stretch up to about 6 months.". Your statement is not true when applying to Asia or EU as whole continents. – scaaahu Jul 20 '12 at 1:59
  • @scaaahu Got it, can you share your experience on the time periods for the some countries in Europe and in Asia. It would be interesting to compare notes as I have applied for jobs and worked in Asia and in Europe. – tehnyit Jul 20 '12 at 7:38
  • do I really need to explain the difference between German and Greece in this year? I currently live in Taiwan. The street I live by is undergoing major reconstruction. Most of the workers including the head of the team who has BS in engineering are from south east Asia. Is this enough for you? – scaaahu Jul 20 '12 at 7:48
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To sum up and add - "questionable gaps" can vary widely by:

  • Location - Europe, Asia, the US - even parts of the US - for example, Florida's had a pretty big lull since the housing market collapse.
  • Job type - different professions are going to see this differently - engineers sometimes pursue independant projects, where doctors "start their own practice", actors are irregularly in and out of work all the time. It has a lot to do with the pattern of the industry.
  • State of the market - there was a while there in the dot com collapse where pretty much every technical profession accepted that if you were looking for 1-2 years, you were normal.

It probably even sums up to the overall profile of the individual. When you've been inteviewing for a while, you end up with stereotypes of appliants - ie "the college grad", "the contractor", "the life time employee", "the I change jobs every 3-5 years guy"... all of these profiles fit a template. When someone significantly breaks the template, questions arise. If you can answer them with a reasonable, truthful answer, then it's not a big deal.

3

My mate had two years off. I had six months off. we are both gainfully employed in jobs we like.

As long as you don't write on CV - "sitting around the house watching Jeremey Kyle", but instead something like "travelling asia" you'll be fine. Assuming the rest of the cv and demonstrable skills are ok of course.

2

This is very dependent on the back ground check and your back ground.

If your check finds an arrest or conviction around the same time you have a significant gap in your employment history they may want an explanation.

When you are applying for jobs that require a level of security there are varying accepted lengths. When I was in the process of contracting to a Nuclear Power plant I had to explain any gap of more than a month and provide proof of unemployment for any periods of 3 months or more. In some higher security positions I needed to be able to account for 100% of my work history including all gaps, and someone who could verify that I was out of work during this period and what I was doing for income.

In general any gap of 3 or more months may need an explanation. That you were currently out of work for 6 months probably did not need explanation since it was already explained. They may also only look for periods that serve as red flags.

2

I think reasons/explanations are more important. A cover letter and interview can do a much better job in this case than just a chronological CV. Someone who got out of the workforce to raise a child until they were school age is not such a bad thing. However, you may need to show you've made some effort to keep your skills up to date. That really depends on what type of work you do.

  • "Someone who got out of the workforce to raise a child until they were school age". It is devastating in a fast moving technology field. – Rig Jul 18 '12 at 21:55
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    @Rig, no it isn't. I know several women programmers who did this and they got back into the workforce just fine. You just have to show that you have updated your skills. And there are places that still use the older skills (look in enterprise-type development (where something else is the main business) shops vice start-ups or pure development shops for instance). – HLGEM Dec 5 '13 at 13:59
  • @HLGEM You can disagree all you want but most research on the topic seems to disagree with you. An extended period out of the work force shows a correlation for lower wages and promotion opportunities for women in the US. – Rig Dec 5 '13 at 18:52
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    @rig, that is different from being devastating. I am a women, you don't have to tell me that women (even ones who don't leave to raise children) are paid less and have fewer promotion opportunities. – HLGEM Dec 5 '13 at 19:13
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The answer to this question would change based on the reasons for the gap in unemployment. If a person has an acceptable or reasonable response as to why they have a gap in employment, then it would probably be overlooked or not viewed in a negative way. But on the other side of that, if the person in question doesn't have a reason or any explanation as to why they havent been employed in a long time, that would most likely be viewed as a negative and possibly raise other questions in the HR persons mind.

protected by Philip Kendall Jan 9 '17 at 22:44

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