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I left my previous employer a couple of months ago. How do I explain the gap in my resume in an interview, or answer the question, "Why did you leave your previous position," if anyone asks? I've applied to graduate school as well as other jobs.

Right now, the only thing I can come up with is either, "personal reasons," or a lengthy explanation/list of all the small reasons that contributed to me leaving. I want to stay away from "management issues" too.

My question is similar to Leaving a new job to relocate for personal reasons?


I left my job because the work culture wasn't quite right from the start. It just got worse over time. One coworker was disrespectful to me every time he had to talk to me. He was going through some personal stuff and I notified HR that his personal issues were affecting me. That was the first red flag. I subscribe to the belief that if everyone is the problem, then the problem is you, but after over analyzing every social interaction I was having at work, I realized there was only so much I could do to change myself to fit into the environment.

I started sending out my resume after six months of working there. I got a call about every two months and noticed that in every interview, some kind of negativity was making its way into what I was saying. I got pretty depressed to the point where I didn't know what kept me from getting an offer, but I was certain depression wasn't helping. I decided that I had two options: stay at this job and damage my career and mental health, or quit and preserve my mental health regardless of how it affects my career.

I quit my job and results were as expected: I finished my graduate school applications, wrote killer statements of purpose, and sorted out all of my answers to every (nontechnical) interview question I've ever been asked.

Since then, I had an interview where the hiring manager was rather disrespectful. The point is, I'm still getting interviews, so there's some reason to be optimistic, but of course, that company in particular is exactly what I'm avoiding.

One of my concerns is that all my previous experience has been as an intern. Each internship lasted only a few months. With this full time position, I barely made it over a year. I know they're just internships, but I hope that doesn't count against me.

I'm still waiting for an interview for a position at a company , but I want to be prepared in case someone asks, "Why did you leave your previous position?"


Applying to grad school so I can work in a field I'm particularly interested in.

Applying to full time jobs in case I don't get into grad school.

Applying to internships assuming I've been accepted to grad school so I can keep working before the start of the semester, since those offers depend on current enrollment.

marked as duplicate by HorusKol, Dawny33, gnat, Jane S Jan 7 '16 at 11:50

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  • What do you mean by "rather disrespectful" here? – Pepone Jan 6 '16 at 21:51
  • Is that an acceptable answer? I'm afraid it raises a red flag. – masterBuilderBenny Jan 7 '16 at 21:00

Gaps only matter if you cannot cleanly and honestly explain what the gap was about.

When I read this:

I subscribe to the belief that if everyone is the problem, then the problem is you, but after over analyzing every social interaction I was having at work, I realized there was only so much I could do to change myself to fit into the environment.

I pretty much knew right away you are dealing with intern or entry level positions. In general, I think you are over-thinking what it means to have a supposed “gap” in your employment. Everyone can potentially have different gaps for different reasons at different parts in their career. The key is to be honest about why there was a gap.

For example, in my 20s I had to deal with some fairly intense family issues. I had a job and coworkers were supportive, but the overall stress got to be too much, so I did some basic math on savings I had and when I would start looking for a new job and gave myself an “off year.”

When I started to look for new jobs after that I was in a new city and had to explain why I had a gap in my employment. I simply said it straight out: I had some fairly stressful family issues and decided that I needed a break. And I also explained—this is key—that when I left the previous place I was at I made sure not to leave anything hanging. I left copious documentation, was thoughtful to the needs of others and left the door open to being contacted for clarification after I left.

Ultimately, having a gap is not the issue but how you dealt with the gap and the awareness of how it might have impacted the previous employer you left is really at issue. Ultimately a gap might imply you are irresponsible if not handled correctly and they want to know you are responsible and aware of other’s needs.

In this specific case, the problem is “you” but maybe not in the way you understand it: You are simply a new person, fresh to the workforce and you might not understand where exactly you fit in the greater world of employment. Something like culture might not be something you can gauge on a first interview when you are a new hire, but getting “sick” of a toxic culture is not something you should force yourself to be a part of.

So when talking to new hiring managers my tact would simply state that you want to find a permanent home to set your roots in, but made a mistake with the past employer; their culture might work for them but you felt uncomfortable for you.

In general, if the “gap” you are talking about is only a few months, nobody cares. Especially if you are a recently graduated student and only have had intern positions; everyone knows that people who take internships are typically getting “feel” for the workplace and won’t hold that against you.

All that said, instead of worrying about the past, then just focus on the future. Concentrate on explaining to the new hiring manager how your presence in the company will be a positive and highlight your actual strengths. If you are really good at what you do, you can topically explain away any gap in employment; remember most employers just don’t care about your “life story” past what benefits you would bring to them by being a part of their team.

Highlight why you should be hired and your longevity with the company will naturally grow.

  • I definitely made sure to tie up the loose ends in my work and leave behind thorough documentation, but I'll make sure to mention that, so thanks. This was an entry level position, not an internship (just to clarify). It's also easy for me to focus on the future and explain what my strengths and weaknesses are, what I have to offer, etc. This is the only part I'm uncomfortable with if they ask. Also, isn't, "their culture might work for them but it felt uncomfortable for me," a red flag for some employers? People don't choose unemployment unless it's for personal reasons, e.g. your case. – masterBuilderBenny Jan 7 '16 at 20:42
  • @masterBuilderBenny “People don't choose unemployment unless it's for personal reasons, e.g. your case.” Yes and no. I mentioned a fairly major incident. But past that there are a few gigs of varying lengths I left when I could see the writing on the wall. This relates to you: At one gig the place was being toxic past their normal/acceptable levels with tons of senior staff leaving. When I saw that, I waited for a few decent freelance gigs to come, handed in my resignation and… Life goes on. When I interview for new gigs who ask that I explain exactly what I just describe and they accept it. – JakeGould Jan 7 '16 at 21:59

I filled my gaps with self employment. Nothing fancy, yet I listed work I wasn't getting paid for to fill the gap. It worked well enough that once I used the method, I have employers interested right away. Just refer to friends and family as clients and see how empty your gaps are. You may be shocked!

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