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Employment gaps occur for a variety of reasons. For many women, balancing the demands of career and family can lead to employment gaps when caring for the kids took center stage. In recent years, more men have also begun taking breaks from work to stay at home with young children. While this is often a perfectly viable reason for a gap, explaining it effectively takes some strategy.
Cover Letter Mention
One proactive measure you might consider is to briefly note the reason for your employment gap in your cover letter when you apply for the job. Hiring managers looking over your resume may detect a gap, especially if it lasted several years. By stating concisely that you "briefly left your career in sales to take care of your children for a couple years," you don't let the hiring manager's imagination run wild. This mention is especially sensible if your career aside from the interruption is solid and consistent.
Be Open and Honest
You have no obligation to disclose that you have children or left work to care for them. In fact, IT recruiting firm Ashley Ellis noted in an April 2011 article that you should simply point out that you left work for a while for personal reasons because you couldn't commit to your work during that period. However, if you have a strong work history and qualifications, you might have more comfort simply stating "I left my career during that time to care for my young children before they started preschool," because this leaves little room for uncertainty.
Only Speak When Spoken To
Aside from the open disclosure in a cover letter, it is generally better not to bring up the gap in the interview unless asked. If you get the interview, the hiring manager likely accepted your communication in the letter and decided you had the credentials anyway. If the hiring manager does ask about your gap, focus your response on the last three to five years. You might say "I did have a brief gap from work early in my career, but my career has been growing strongly for the last six years since I started with Company X."
Focus on Growth and Development
The typical concern that an employer has in bringing up employment gaps is that you might not make a long-term commitment to the company or job. You can dispel this notion with a strong, confident response. If you have an otherwise stellar work record, you could say "I've had a couple short breaks from work to care for my kids, but my 10-plus years of proven experience and professional development in human resources shows my commitment my craft."
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Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.
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