By Jori Hamilton
The year 2020 and the arrival of COVID-19 was tough on everyone. In addition to the stress of falling ill and protecting our families, many Americans also lost their jobs. These situations were typically due to safety precautions and social distancing measures, but no matter how noble the cause, it still resulted in many facing gaps in their employment.
Now that vaccines are out and the pandemic is becoming more contained, people are returning to work, yet many are haunted by the pauses in their employment. We are here to tell you not to worry. Below are some talking points when an interviewer inevitably asks about a gap and what you can do in the meantime.
It Starts With the Resume
Since it is the first thing that employers will see, you will want to beef up your resume as you decide to get back into the workforce. You can’t hide the gap, but you can add to other parts of your resume to show your importance to a future organization. Talk about skills that helped you in previous jobs by stating in detail how these attributes improved the company where you worked. So, instead of a bullet point that says “sales skills,” you should state something like, “Identified a new market and increased sales by 23% over one year.”
Your resume should be accompanied by a cover letter that is individualized to the company you are applying to. This is a good time to address the gap in your resume. In between listing your accomplishments, be honest that you were let go due to COVID-19, but you have been sharpening your skills, and you are ready to work and showcase your abilities to help the organization thrive.
There may be a temptation to lie on your resume and try to hide the gap by making up fictitious dates showing you worked at a company longer than you really did. This would be a mistake. When companies call your previous employers, they will be told the dates you were employed, and if they are wildly different, you will appear untrustworthy. You will likely not get the job in this case, and even if you do, it will begin on bad terms.
Now comes the moment of truth. You’re sitting across from the interviewer, and they ask why you had a nine-month gap in your employment. Though it may be daunting, you must be honest. Tell them it was a closure due to COVID-19. The employer knows what has been happening in the world, and if you look good on paper and you’re eager to impress, they will likely look past it.
But don’t just leave it at that. If you have been looking for a job since you were let go by the previous employer, let them know. Talk about how excited you are to rejoin the workforce and put your skills back into action. If you left the old employer on good terms and a manager there could be a reference, consider telling the new job to give them a call. That alone could get you in the door.
Finally, talk about some of the skills or lessons you learned while you were unemployed. Many people were isolated during this time, so talk about how you came to value being part of a team working toward a common goal. If you read books about topics like leadership or entrepreneurship, you may mention those as well.
Fill In The Gaps
The point is that you want to prove that you used your time off wisely. In the eyes of the employer, a deciding factor for who to hire may come down to the applicants who said that they used the gap time to improve themselves and those who just took time to relax. You may even consider this job loss as a sign that it was the wrong job or see it as an opportunity to find a new, future career that will truly make you happy.
Wherever the case, if you return to school during the gap, you can show that you filled it with a worthwhile purpose. You don’t have to stray too far from your interests, either. You could find a different job within that same field. So, if you are interested in information systems, you could find employment in many sub-sections such as software or web developer or even as a librarian.
If instead of schooling, you did volunteer work or some freelance jobs to fill the time, you should include that as well to show that you made the best of a bad situation. The employer will think very highly of you if you do.
There is no reason to be ashamed of a gap in your employment due to COVID-19. By being honest with your interviewer and making an effort to improve your hirable skills, you will find a job that suits your needs.
Bio: Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in topics related to politics, urban living, society, and health. If you’d like to learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.