you won’t need to explain your current work gap

I keep hearing from people asking about the best way to explain a layoff right now, or a work gap on their resume caused by the current outbreak.

You will not need to explain it.

Everyone will get it.

Many of your interviewers will have been in the same situation themselves. If they weren’t, they’ll know plenty of people who were — spouses, kids, parents, friends, and other loved ones.

People tend to worry too much about explaining layoffs and work gaps under normal circumstances. You really don’t need to worry about them right now.

What happened in 2020 is going to be remembered and understood for a long time.

This is one thing you don’t need to feel anxious about right now.

{ 122 comments… read them below }

  1. Hula-la*

    If any employer doesn’t get why there would be a gap during this part of 2020, that’s a sign of bigger issues.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I think the trench coat man would even understand because they were not required to use the trench coat trick to sneak out of school since they were all quarantined at home.

        1. PeanutButter*

          And if someone did go and get a service industry/essential job: “They worked at a *grocery store* after getting laid off from a professional position? Obviously they aren’t candidate material…”

    1. The IT Plebe*

      This was my first thought, too. If nothing else, a potential employer giving you a hard time about the gap or even questioning it would be a red flag to me and I would wonder what else they’re out of touch about and how that would affect me as an employee.

  2. AndyTron*

    Likewise, under normal circumstances I’d be worried about explaining why I only had my last job for 6 months, but I think the April 2020 end date will speak for itself for quite some time.

    1. ThatGirl*

      And even when the time comes where people start asking/needing it explained, a simple “layoffs due to coronavirus” will suffice.

    2. Circe*

      I had a job from January-May 2009 and then spotty/job-hoppy stuff through 2012. No one’s ever asked for an explanation, especially as the jobs that bookend those periods were 3-year stints. If it comes up, it’s a general, “whoa, that was an unfortunate time to try to do major gifts for cultural institutions. No wonder you changed careers!”

      1. CatWoman2*

        Someone actually asked me about my work history from 2009-2011, when I was struggling to break into my field after completing my master’s degree. My answer was fine: “it was a tough economic time, and I worked retail and took on unpaid internships as I was able.” I actually viewed that as a red flag, given that I’d had about 8 years of incredibly solid experience since then and what I’d been doing from 2009-2011 wasn’t as relevant to the job (which was why it wasn’t on my resume).

    3. WorkingWell*

      I’m still not sure how to explain that I was promoted for only one week! Monday I’m a supervisor with benefits and a raise, Friday the company’s closed.

  3. bubbleon*

    To add to this- I also wouldn’t be worried about being able to talk about what you did during a coronavirus imposed work gap. While you might normally talk about volunteering, or taking a course in something relevant to the job, etc, it is perfectly fine and totally normal if all you’re doing right now is keeping yourself inside and sane.

    There’s a particularly tone deaf image going around saying that if you don’t come out of this without a new hobby or a startup or a perfectly clean house, etc then “your problem was never a lack of time, it’s a lack of motivation” and that’s just not the case. Be kind to yourself and know that anyone who holds it against you now or later isn’t anyone whose opinion should matter to you and certainly not someone you should want to work for.

      1. Kettricken Farseer*

        Totally agree. I’ve got a lot more things to worry about than learning a new language. That mentality is the height of privilege if you ask me.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          It’s like the recent Onion headline: “Global pandemic that has killed thousands giving local woman just the push she needs to re-organize her Tupperware cabinet.”

          Plenty of people are finding solace in such things in their increased time at home, and that’s great. But plenty of us are way too stressed to “take advantage” of this time.

          1. The Original K.*

            Also, a lot of people have LESS time. If you are working your full-time job remotely AND trying to manage young kids who can’t be left alone for long periods of time, odds are good that you don’t have much free time to write a novel or learn a language. Being at home doesn’t mean you’re not busy.

            (It really is striking how that “we must be constantly grinding” mentality works its way in, though. I spent a lot of time on a weekend day crying, and I was ashamed of myself for not being more productive.)

            1. bubbleon*

              I’ve gotten to the point where I’m allowing myself the weekend to do absolutely nothing. I live alone and don’t have kids so I know that’s a huge luxury, but I’ve stopped trying to schedule anything or even stick to a normal day. If I need to go back to sleep 2 hours after I woke up, it’s nap time. Who cares if I eat dinner at 3am? It’s really helped break me out of the constantly grinding mentality and I can already tell I’m in a better place mentally than I was last week.

            2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              I’m completing a long-term personal project and even though I’m home all day, I’m putting in a full day of work, which tires me out just as much as going to the office. And the stress is real–trying to keep up our service level and documentation. The most recent steps to my personal project are very check-off-the-boxes, but even though it’s a fun thing, it also took planning and full attention, and right now it’s so easy to be distracted and scatterbrained. A couple of weeks ago I went to office for some files and to do a couple of little things. I had a list on a post-it but I couldn’t focus on anything, I’d start on thing and think I needed to do something else first and then something else because it would be quicker to get done. Just spun my wheels and spun my wheels.

              However, it’s been a good chance to play backgammon.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            I’m especially amused by that one because I really *did* reorganize my Tupperware cabinet last week. And my spice rack. I WILL HAVE CONTROL OVER SOMETHING IN MY LIFE, DARNIT. (Am I being extra-productive at my actual paid job? No, I am not, though I’m finally getting into a decent routine with working from home. I am just being productive at whatever my brain has last latched onto as a distraction.)

            1. I've cleaned everything. Yes, that. And That.*

              My house is so clean you could perform surgery on any surface. I pulled apart my husband’s keyboard and cleaned each key individually with vinegar and water. That’s not healthy, it’s a desperate bid to control what I can. A socially acceptable desperate bid, but not a healthy one.

              1. MayLou*

                I thought I was managing fine the first week or so, and then I caught myself on my hands and knees sweeping the living room carpet with a dustpan and brush. I own a vacuum cleaner. This is not normal behaviour for me.

            2. Laura H.*

              That’s different tho- it’s exercising a small amount of control when almost everything else that was in your control just isn’t anymore.

              That will manifest itself differently for different people. For you, it’s organizing the spice rack… for me, that’s popping on my headphones and drowning out my family’s noise (not intentional or maliciously produced) without adding to it.

              We all will take this differently and that’s ok!

              Good luck!

          3. Jdc*

            I usually am the person with the always cleaned everything organized house and the amount of stress has me not doing it even with time. It just is different than having months off to do as you please.

        2. SweetestCin*

          I mean, I’m getting more creative in my daily use of expletives, that has to count as a new language, correct?

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            Oh boy, I thought I was the only one. My neighbors are going to come over and smack me some day. But it’s so easy to get upset over little things now, and with the everlasting conference calls when my desk is stacked with stuff to do. Bless the mute button.

        3. ThatGirl*

          I’ll be honest – my husband and I are kid-free, our parents live out of state, we have nobody else to worry about except our dog. For now at least our jobs are secure. We have a lot of free time. My husband’s been brushing up on his Spanish with DuoLingo. We’re absolutely privileged. We know it. And we’re still stressed out and anxious! And I wish so much that I could help my friends who have kids and much more stressful jobs and health problems to worry about. But the least I can do is not be an a-hole bragging about free time and buying into the grind mentality on social media.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, if you have the ability and desire to learn something new, great – but that’s just not realistic for a lot of people, and beyond that it’s just tone deaf. This is a crisis, not a pleasant garden leave.

      1. Jasper*

        I tried so hard to push back on that one. But no, they just kept doubling down. “I wasn’t talking about those people!”.

        1. Aquawoman*

          Well, this anonymous internet stranger thanks you for your efforts; I’m happy to see people pushing back on that kind of nonsense. I so strongly hate that “be more perfect! it’s your own fault if you’re not a Stepford Wifeperson!” stuff. I saw something recently that said “Maybe you manifested it. Maybe it’s white privilege,” which was my favorite thing in a long time.

    2. Nerfmobile*

      Yes! My new hobby appears to be home-schooling my daughter, which was never on my top-1000 life goals at all. But its what needs to be done. And many people have many more new “needs to be done” things during this time than have spare time for self-actualizing goals. Aside from the care-taking needed to stay on an reasonably even keel.

    3. hbc*

      My new hobbies are doing all the extra dishes we’re generating because we’re around all the freaking time, cleaning up messes I didn’t care about until my kids started making schoolwork videos all around the house, and taking four times as long to generate documents connecting through our VPN. Woohoo, personal growth!

      1. Grayson*

        I had an angry moment yesterday similar to your dishes dilemma. We’re home damn near 24/7 now (I visit my partners who are self-isolating and that’s the extent of my people). I told my partner I was upset about the cooking division of labor. I later realized it wasn’t the labor but the unending dishes! He pointed out that the problem follows the second law of thermodynamics: entropy will increase in a closed system.

        That made it a lot less frustrating to realize.

    4. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I’m trying my best to cultivate my hobbies and do housework, but I’m bogged down with a lot of anxiety and stress about the future. I’m limited in housework because pregnant so no heavy lifting. A friend posted this and I said “it could also be a reset for people who were burned out before this” thankfully that was well received.

    5. Luna123*

      Yeah, whenever I feel bad about cutting myself some slack, I remind myself “the entire world is currently going through a traumatic experience.”

    6. Lyudie*

      That made me want to scream. My husband and I both can work from home (we both did a day a week before this) and go to grad school online…our work and school commitments have not changed much at all. We had an extra week of spring break and my class at least has cut back a bit on readings and such (I don’t think his has) but we still have assignments and exams and projects on top of our day jobs. And as mentioned people with kids have LESS time than ever. That person can shoot themselves into the sun.

      1. Kyrielle*

        “That person can shoot themselves into the sun.”

        YES. They can do it as their science project during their extra quarantine time.

        Um. I hope my kids don’t have a science project…but if they do it’s probably in Minecraft, and I guess if they shoot me into the sun there, it’s all fun and games.

      2. alienor*

        Same – I transitioned from working one day a week at home to all the days, and my workload is higher than it’s been in months. (I work in communications and the entire world wants to put out some sort of message right now.) Any time I’m saving on commuting is getting absorbed by all the extra cooking and dishwashing and other chores of everyone being at home 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to still have a job, but I’m not going to be planting a garden or learning a language or even doing one of those 1,000-piece puzzles everyone seems to be working on anytime soon.

      3. JustaTech*

        Oh this!
        My MIL is bored out of her mind. She’s got no hobbies beyond having dinner with friends, and has some medical conditions so she can’t even go for a walk. So she assumes that my husband and I are just as bored, when really his work load has increased significantly, and I’ve got plenty to do.

        But as bored as she (and she thinks we are), she’s not suggesting we do something new or mentally challenging. Nope, she just thinks we need to do 1000 piece puzzles.

    7. Quill*

      I know that one and it infuriates me because the problem isn’t usually time, it’s lack of security, availability of mental and physical health support, and time, all rolled together.

      This is why people don’t suddenly pick up new skills when they’re laid off.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        I jumped into a class in the latest Microsoft Office Suite right after I lost my job in the great recession–but I wasn’t in fear for my health and life taking the bus downtown and sitting in a computer lab with up to 16 other people. That makes a difference. Besides upping my employability, the activity was welcome because it got me out of the house and giving me something organized to do.

    8. Sabina*

      My new hobby during COVID lockdown? Trying to manage the care of my 90 year old mother from hundreds of miles distance after she “chose” to have a life threatening medical emergency (non-COVID) in the middle of a freaking pandemic. That and keeping myself and my cancer survivor immune suppressed husband alive. Some days I manage to take a shower and eat an actual meal on a plate.

    9. Amy Sly*

      I’ve seen two versions of that meme. I agree that the one about “your problem wasn’t lack of time” is condescending and irritating.

      The one that goes “I always thought that if I just had a bunch of time with nothing to do I’d [insert unpleasant task here]. Turns out that wasn’t the problem.” makes me laugh. Because yeah, that’s an excuse I gave myself, and yeah, turns out that even trapped in my house with no real increase in responsibilities, I found things to do that didn’t involve cleaning the pantry closet or filing the mounds of billing statements. (Cobbler’s wives go barefoot, doctor’s wives die young, and lawyers have stacks of random paperwork lying around their house.)

    10. Megpie71*

      I wasn’t expecting to come out of this period (where I’m actually working from home, and therefore being expected to, y’know, *work* at the actual job I’m being *paid for*) with any skills I didn’t know previously. As it happens, I’m going to acquire one – I’m learning which common keyboard tasks do and don’t exacerbate carpal tunnel syndrome… and it’s a skill-set I’d rather not have been in a position to acquire.

      That said, I get rather annoyed with all the various posts out there which assume because I’m at home I either have a lot of time I don’t know how to occupy (even if I wasn’t working from home, I’m coming off ten years unemployment; occupying my free time is not so much a skill as a practised hobby) or a lot of tasks I’ve been putting off forever which I no longer have any excuse to delay (again, ten years unemployment – trust me, the “uncompleted chores” list is pretty damn short).

  4. Arctic*

    So, what I’m hearing is now is the perfect time to tell off my boss the way I always dreamed!

    1. Evan Þ.*

      Well, depends on whether you were dreaming about telling her off in person in the office!

      1. Arctic*

        I’ll have to readjust the fantasy to include Zoom!

        (I kid my bosses are flawed but lovely people.)

      2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Joking aside, am I the only one experiencing a lot of soul-searching about my job (which I’m very grateful to have right now) and thinking there must be something just downright nicer out there?

        1. Mary K*

          Pretty much exactly how I feel at the moment. Not just about my job, but really my whole industry.

    2. Marzinnia*

      “Look, my boss might SAY I was fired because I threw the fish I was artfully arranging into an F-YOU at him, but we all know that I wouldn’t have done that if the dark magic priestess hadn’t cursed me, and my duck clubs (I was raising ducks, in the store, and ALSO had a secret sex club) started to get a little out of control – anyways, to get back to my greatest strength, I think probably my ability to organize fellow interns about dress code reform, and my sensual wrists.”

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          I’ve been waiting for cheap ass rolls to come up again.

          Several weeks ago (when there was still plenty of food in the stores), I was doing my weekly shopping and was shocked, SHOCKED to see Hawaiian rolls on sale for less than the cheap ass rolls.

          But remember when you wouldn’t eat and mama said “someday you’ll wish you had that succotash/fried tunafish sandwich/baked bean and raisin omelet.” I bet the people who passed on the cheap ass rolls wished they had them a couple of weeks ago.

    3. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I have fantasies of writing an expletive filled letter or a scathing Glassdoor review, but I will never do that. I plan to stay in the same field and too easy to run into people I may know for my next job.

      I’m in a FB group where they give only bad advice, it’s meant to be lighthearted fun, and man I got a lot of good ideas on fantasy-quitting LOL.

  5. Count Boochie Flagrante*


    Very much like a work gap beginning in late 2007 or during 2008. The date speaks for itself.

    1. Sleepless*

      Exactly. People will say, “And then April 2020 happened” and everybody will nod knowingly, the way they do when we say “yeah, that was in 2008, so…”

      1. londonedit*

        Yep. I’ve condensed it all on my CV now, because it was 12 years ago, but my employment in 2008 was pretty odd. I was made redundant from a job I’d only had for six months, then I did some freelancing to get by, then I got a short-term contract job, and then I ended up going back to the company that had made me redundant (because everyone else had left). I did get asked about it in interviews, but all I had to say was ‘Well, I was made redundant at the start of the financial crisis…’ and I’d immediately get an ‘Oh, yes, say no more’ response. I imagine it’ll be the same if anyone says ‘Well, it was April 2020 and the company I was working for closed down as a result of coronavirus’ or whatever.

  6. K*

    I’ve been trying to tell myself this as I’m making some tough job decisions right now, but it’s very nice to have it confirmed by an outside voice.

  7. Hiring Mgr*

    It’s like when I have to explain why my resume for the 1930’s only says “freelance fruit picker and rag salesman”

    1. Marzinnia*

      fluent in hoboglyphics
      expert at freight-hopping
      created new bindle-folding technique which reduced bindle volume by 30%

  8. Mark*

    Agree 100%. My daughter lost her job a month ago (she worked for an airline and they cut almost 1000 people almost instantly). Saddest thing is that was a dream job in a dream company and she’ll probably never land in such a good company again (the current layoff notwithstanding)

    I told her that of all times to lose a job – this is the one time she’s not going to have to worry about the question, “Why did you leave your last company”…

  9. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I can confirm this sentiment. I’ve been laid off twice in the past, and it was never an issue in an interview. And this is affecting way more people now than both times I went through it.

  10. Anon Anon*

    I feel like 2020 is going to be like 2008. If I see a gap from 2008 or so (if their resume goes back that far), as long as they weren’t unemployed for years on end, then I just look over it. A lot of people lost their jobs then. And a lot of people will lose their jobs now. I think a gap is only an issue if someone has lost their job and they have a gap that last years, especially, when the economy is good.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Sadly, I had plenty of interviewers asking me about job gaps/hoping around 2008-2010, so I’m not optimistic about them being understanding about this crisis.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        How long ago were you questioned about those gaps/hopping?

        Because honestly, right now I don’t think “recession” anymore when I see 2008-2010. I honestly don’t care about 10 years ago if you’ve fixed the pattern anyways and don’t think most of that’s on updated resumes in my experience!

        But in like 2012, were they asking you about that?

        Like in 2025 or 2027, this will actually be in the rear-view for a lot of people. Our attention spans are very limited and we do move on. We forget about all those people out of work in the 80s when that whole recession hit. People are like “There was a recession in the 80s? There was a recession in 2001?” And yeah…people forget about the 9/11 recession and so forth.

        But for the next couple of years, people who don’t remember and give that leeway are real jackholes to say the least!

        1. Rosie*

          I had an interview on Monday in which I was asked to justify why I changed careers in 2002, the answer to which was 9/11 shuttered the industry I was working in at the time. I had an interview last week in which the recruiter expressed concern at my spotty work history, by which she meant the temping I did after a layoff in 2008, never mind I stayed seven years in my next role. People forget.

      2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        After the recession I was worried about my gap/spotty temp jobs and asked a friend in HR if hiring managers would connect the dots with the year and all the layoffs. She said you’d think so, but a little farther out and you might come up against an interviewer who forgot or was too young to know the impact.

  11. Mouse*

    If you’re temporarily furloughed, assuming I return to work at some point, how would you list it on your resume? Would you change the dates to leave a furlough gap, or just include that period in your date range? Leaving it unsaid seems dishonest, but I’m not sure a future employer needs to know the details of a one or two month furlough.

    1. Mimi*

      For just a month or two, I think leaving it off is fine, particularly if it’s more than a year in the past and your total time at the company is at least a few years. If I talked my employer into giving me a two-month unpaid sabbatical I wouldn’t list it on my resume, not unless I was spending the time to climb Everest or something, and even then I’d be listing the achievement, not the gap.

      If it gets to be, say, six months, that might start feeling weirder, but if things drag on that long, A LOT of people are going to have weird stuff going on in terms of continuity, and it might even go without saying.

      1. Mimi*

        You wouldn’t expect a teacher to write that they had the summer off, would you? Even though some teachers do work year-round.

    2. Oh No She Di'int*

      If you are furloughed, then you have not lost your job. You are still employed by that employer. The employment is continuous.

    3. hbc*

      Like Mimi, I think it’s a bit of a function of the length of the layoff and your total time in the position.

      I’d be pretty put off if I thought I was hiring someone with 1 year of accounting experience but it was actually 6 months, but 2 months out of 12 or 6 months out of 5 years? No big deal. And even in the situation where you were gone a high percentage of the time, the fact that you were brought back (when it would be an easy time for them to lose low performers) is a positive note.

      In the case where it feels necessary to mention it, I’d probably put something like “Acme Inc, Accounting Assistant Dec 2019-Feb 2021 (furlough Apr-July)”.

    4. Chris*

      Your employment didn’t end; you just didn’t have any hours for a couple of months. It’s a scheduling thing that your future employers don’t need to know about.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Also look at it as, what if you were out on FMLA because you were recovering from surgery? Would you feel like you needed to list that? I would hope not! You’re not starting over when you get back from being furloughed, you’ll still come back at pretty much top speed. Unlike if you lost a job and had to start all the way over, in that way.

  12. Ama*

    There’s a very old Russian Orthodox church in my neighborhood that has a historical society plaque on it, noting that the cornerstone was laid in 1918 but they had to pause construction until 1921. Doesn’t explain any further but it is pretty easy to guess what other world events might have gotten in the way at the time.

    1. Pomegranate Toes*

      At my previous job, I once visited a building that had a plaque commemorating the day of the groundbreaking. The day was September 11, 2001. I find it really hard to believe they actually started construction that day….

    2. Grace*

      The church in my hometown had construction start in the late 1340s but then didn’t resume until the 1370s or 80s – half the country dying probably dented the workforce a bit. Apparently people who actually know about medieval ecclesiastical architecture can very easily point out the pre- and post-plague sections because construction was paused for so long that the fashions changed.

  13. Amethystmoon*

    This will probably be one of those things too that is studied at colleges from many different aspects, and students all over the world will have to write term papers on it. But yeah, I am happy to still have a paycheck and to be in an essential industry.

  14. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Thanks for this. I was a little worried about that. I was a manager at an accounting company and I was laid off a few weeks ago. I worried that future prospects would wonder “why was an accounting manager laid off, that’s an essential service.” I know I was overthinking it, but I think the more interviews/conversations I have, I’ll be comfortable.

  15. For goodness sake, wash your hands!*

    Thanks so much, Alison. We just had 10% cuts across the board, and while I was not laid off in this round, I was tossing and turning last night about how on earth I would get through this if I’m not so lucky next time.

  16. MissGirl*

    Also, DO NOT FEEL SHAME. This is the time to broadcast it on LinkedIn, Facebook, alumni associations, etc. Utilize your network like never before. A lot companies have hiring freezes but that doesn’t mean they’re not hiring at all. They just may not be publicizing them.

    It’s going to take a lot of contacts to find that next role. More than ever people are feeling frustrated they can’t help in tangible ways. Your network will want to help, to feel useful in some small way.

    When someone posts on LinkedIn, I share and like even though I don’t know a position for them.

    1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      I know it depends heavily on industry, but I am seeing companies still hiring for people start remotely. I even had a recruiter message me! I turned it down since I’m not looking, but shared the post to my LinkedIn network.

      1. JustaTech*

        My spouse has done several interviews just this week (remotely) for his company and they’re still hiring for full-time salary roles. It’s made on-boarding harder (they have a weird on-boarding system), and they’re still trying to figure out how to wrangle the interns this summer, but they aren’t stopping.

        So it’s not just Amazon and grocery stores.

  17. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    I agree she’s a bully and it can be very difficult to stand up to your bully.

    How about
    “Now that (husband) is laid off, money is really tight. I’m so sorry I can’t share food and drinks with you anymore”

  18. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Question – if this is a furlough, are you allowed to look for a new job? I have my health insurance which I’ll be paying out of pocket for, but I’m wondering if companies will “punish” an employee for searching?

  19. KcW*

    I had nearly 2 years off work mid 2017-2019 because I took voluntary redundancy from my nearly 22 year job and moved towns, got rid of my big city mortgage and bought mortgage free… I was blessed because I could basically afford it in a cheaper town and felt like having a break and being a stay at home DOG mum and chasing my dream of being semi-retired at 42 [lol) and sewing! It was fun! Finally returned to work in March last year in a fun job totally removed from my line of work then returned to a full time “proper” job in November… went on a few job interviews and NO ONE even asked about the break in my CV or even seemed to notice it. I got told I had too long a break by my own family and would ruin my prospects for ever getting a good job, but the work world didn’t even care… Guess I was lucky!

  20. Throwaway*

    What if we were looking for a job for a few months before the pandemic began, and now that search has obviously lengthened?

    1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      Yes, sadly that describes me … Had been looking for several months, employment market not helped by election and Br*x*t, finally got something in March, then was let go after two and a half weeks …

    2. ArtsNerd*

      It’s the same. If your unemployment extends for several years, they might want some kind of explanation of how you spent that time, but if it started in November? Please do not worry about this part of things.

  21. Pigbitinmad*

    I don’t buy it. It is going to be pure an unadulterated HELL interviewing after this. I searched and searched for a new job 15 years during that wonderful economy, enduring those stupid cookie cutter questions that employers ask like “If you were me, what should be my concern about hiring you.”

    “%&^%&$ if I know!”

    I can only imagine that searching in the post Bubonic Plague with megatons worse than the Great Depression will just be delightful and employers are going to stop all their stupidity and age discrimination. NOT!

    1. Courageous cat*

      Yeesh, I mean obviously there will always be assholes, but it sounds like you have a pretty biased POV. Most decent employers are going to understand, this is an event that touched every person on this earth.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think you’re slanted here because of your bad experience and that’s valid, I understand.

      But this isn’t the norm. I don’t know what industry you’re in or what your specialty is but it’s not the norm to take that long to find a job. It happens of course, it happened to you, I’m not saying it didn’t. But there are industries that are cutthroat and hard to break into or get back into at any given time, tech can be like that for sure. I’ve seen people fall out of it and can’t get back in for various reasons.

      But most of us aren’t on that wavelength, most people hiring are understanding. Sometimes you’re so trapped in the mindset that you hate these questions, hate the interviewing process so much and it oozes out of you and the interviewer feels it. So you are passed over for someone with a better attitude or “vibe”, again sucks but it happens. It has nothing to do with the economy and most likely wasn’t really that blasted gap that you’re focusing on…

    3. Julia*

      I am still counting on employers and recruiters in my industry/country to ask about my marital status, age, and possible children, so nothing really changed for me. Yeah…

    4. planters*

      Many interview questions are indeed silly, but that’s kind of a different issue – especially since the hardest thing about gaps is that you’re tossed aside before you can get to the interview stage at all. You can offer an explanation in a cover letter, but employers increasingly don’t want those (or they’re required to ask for them by their organization’s bureaucratic apparatus, but the actual hiring managers don’t read them.)

      We have always prioritized my husband’s career since he’s an engineer and has way, way more earning power than I ever will. That meant us moving frequently for his new opportunities. Sometimes I’d get a job in our new place, sometimes I wouldn’t – it would depend on how long we expected to stay, what our child care situation was, the cost of living, if I was visibly pregnant or not. Basically, a variety of factors that made each individual decision totally logical in the moment, but has resulted in a resume that is so repulsive to hiring managers at a glance that they would all but fling holy water at it. Two years no job, three years with a job, one year without a job? This is not a neat little connect-the-career-dots story! You don’t get a chance to explain you were never fired, never irresponsible, have amazing references, etc. if you can’t get past those initial filters of “this trajectory makes no sense.”

      People with COVID layoffs are not at all in that boat. They will, at least in the near term, have an easier time of things than those with gaps-in-general because the story will make sense to hiring managers at a glance. It will be clear what happened. I do cynically think they’ll prioritize employed/no-gap applicants anyway, but it won’t be the kind of death knell people are (understandably) worried about.

  22. Laura in NJ*

    Well, that’s great but what if your gap was WAY before the pandemic? My gap starts in 2013. I’m having a hard enough time explaining that one. So how am I supposed to explain it now? This pandemic is only going to make it that much harder for me to find work.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Your explanation stays the same as it was before the pandemic. I’m so sorry you’re struggling and I agree this isn’t going to make anything easier for you, but you don’t need to explain how this extended your work gap.

    2. Courageous cat*

      I mean if it starts in 2013 then I don’t think a few months is going to make a big difference here.

  23. Moocowcat*

    I’m actually looking for a new job. At my last remote interview, they asked the typical question of why my last position ended. When I mentioned that COVID-19 was a factor, they just nodded agreeably.

  24. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

    I mean, it should have never had to be explained, but especially now.

    1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      I’ve had hiring managers ask me the stupidest “employment gap/duration questions”. Right after I graduated with my M.A., a hiring manager asked me why I took 2 months off the summer before I started graduate school. (I finished my job early and decided to spend a month and a half with family before starting school….is this that unusual??)

  25. RJ*

    I was laid off due to a restructuring in early February and was shortlisted for two job offers right before COVID 19 struck NY/NJ in late March. Despite the current situation, I actually did come across one recruiter last week who asked me why I wasn’t currently working and why I hadn’t found another job. When I explained, he immediately changed the subject.

    Despite the historical precedent of what we are living through, you may run into someone who questions your lack of employment during a global pandemic. Treat it as you would a standard yet occasionally irritating textbook interview question and move ahead. It’s the best any of us can do.

  26. Lou*

    This is such a relief to read. And of course, it should go without saying, but you have no idea how much my shoulders dropped and my jaw unclenched reading this.

    I spent 6 months out of work until the beginning of March this year, and I was sadly only able to work a couple of weeks at my wonderful new job before I was laid off due the virus. I know that they would be happy to take me back if and when things improve (they’re a small arts organization, so things are extremely bleak) but it’s a comfort to feel like job hunting won’t be an utter embarrassment after all of this.

  27. Elizabeth West*

    Well, I already have a big gap, so I have to explain it (there were no jobs at my level where I was). But I’m going to add that I moved right before the holidays, and when I started getting interviews over here after they were over, the pandemic hit.

    Unemployed people are not unemployable. People need to just stop thinking that, because it’s not generally true.

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