time off in between jobs

A reader writes:

I have been laid off for almost 10 months now. I have been working hard for this time to secure another position. I am currently concerned that the length of time I have been out of work is against me when I interview. I have had several interviewing managers ask me what I have been doing all this time. My answer is truthful that I took a little family time off when first laid off, have been helping aging parents and volunteering to help other seniors, taking some IT classes and mostly looking for a new position.

Many people keep telling me this amount of time is not a big deal, especially in the area I live where the unemployment rate is somewhat high at this time. In your opinion, how is this time off viewed by hiring managers?

I think it’s far less about the time off itself and much more about how you frame it. Your answer seems perfect to me — you’re caring for family members, volunteering, and improving your skills — and wouldn’t raise red flags for me.

Anyone else feel differently?

{ 5 comments… read them below }

  1. J.T. O'Donnell - Career Insights*

    I agree in that it’s how you frame it, but I’d also add that you need to fully believe in your answer as a good one as well. Don’t let the doubts of others creep into your thoughts or it will show in the interview. You need to be comfortable and confident in your answer. 93% of communication is non-verbal, so any fear that the response isn’t a good one will show. I often recommend role playing difficult interview questions like this so you can get truly comfortable with articulating a sound response.

    I agree with Ask A Manager in that your reasons are solid – good luck to you!

  2. Totally Consumed*

    Gaps in employment will raise questions; you can count on it. If faced with two candidates who are equally qualified, unless there is a crystal clear reason for the gap, I’m gonna almost always select the one who’s had the shortest time between jobs.

    My best advice:
    1) have a tangible product to show for taking the “personal time”. IE. “I attended school full time and received a certification in XYZ” or “I took some time to travel and write, you can see my work here (___)”.
    2) Don’t delay the job search, the larger the gap, the harder it will be to explain.

  3. HR Wench*

    Along the lines of what JT said: be confident in yourself and your answers to all interview questions. And if you have a hard time doing this, fake it!

    I get really irritated with recruiters and hiring managers who treat those with job gaps due to lay offs as freaks of nature. They obviously have never dealt with the pain and anxiety that comes with such an event. And you know what else? People take time off. They do! It is not some wild crazy thing to do.

  4. Breanne*

    As a former recruiter, if you did something positive during your time off, built your skillset and are HONEST with me, then the gap isn’t a big deal.

  5. I Am Scared!*

    Totally Consumed has given me a smidgen of hope. However, I have been hearing that, right off the bat, companies are tossing resumes of the unemployed. I've also heard that some companies are even saying things like "unemployed need not apply." This scares me to death! My one-year mark of unemployment is coming up – 8/30/09. There are so many of us out there!
    When I was first laid off, I helped a friend whose alcoholism got out of control and almost killed her. However, I also spent too much time in and out of funks, which I do know not to divulge. Then, and luckily, I was awarded a WorkForce Investment Act Scholarship through WorkSource on 4/19/10 and started my first class on 4/22/10. My classes may be winding down in August so I HAD planned to hit the streets hard on 9/1/10. I WAS excited about starting my new career job search; however, now Im scared stiff!
    Is it true that companies are doing this to the unemployed? If so, is there some way to not divulge this in cover letters or on my resume, but have a mini resume prepared that outlines my unemployment time and give this to the interviewer at the beginning of the interview? I know that some interviewers would feel hi-hacked by this, yet what if they are a company that would have tossed my resume from the get go. I would gladly be very honest and state why I chose to do this.
    Sorry that this is so long!

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