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Ask Amy | The One About the Job Gap

Every Wednesday I give advice to an anonymous reader about a sticky professional situation they're currently in.

Do you need advice from Amy? Submit using the button below!

This week we have a reader who believes they're being rejected in interviews because of a 6 month job gap.

"I was recently laid off but my position prior to that I left due to what I felt was a toxic environment and had a 6 month gap after quitting before I found my most recent position. Now that I am on the job hunt again I have noticed either being "ghosted" or getting a reject after interviews where it seems like a shift happens when I respond to why I left that job. I don't say anything negative about the company or coworkers and try to keep it vague but still seems like interviewers are put off. I'm unsure what the best way to answer is."

Like many of us, our reader was laid off and now finds herself in this highly competitive market, with both a lay off and a job gap on her resume.

I'm not sure how long all of our readers jobs lasted, or what our reader is saying in interviews, but here's the thing, our reader is getting interviews!! That means the resume is good enough that the hiring manager wants to move this profile forward and speak with the human.

A lay off is easy to explain in interviews - the company was running out of money or going under, and they had to conduct a reduction in force to save on costs. Nobody is at fault there, except maybe the company who hired too many people too quickly in the first place.

A job gap is a bit trickier. Especially if you're saying you left a "toxic environment" without a new role already lined up.

As a recruiter, it is my job, and special ability, to work both sides of these situations.

I absolutely understand not having the mental capacity to stay in a toxic environment, even without a new job lined up. You've had it, and you can't possibly take more mental anguish.

On the other hand I also understand the hiring manager who thinks you could be a risky hire due to behavioral or attitude patterns, or maybe they don't think you're "hungry" enough if you willingly put yourself out of the workforce for half a year.

Again, I'm not sure exactly what our reader is saying in their interviews (this would be better done as a Directional Career Therapy Session), but I can guess they're saying something like, "the environment was toxic so I had to quit without another job lined up, and it took me 6 months to find a new job."

That word "toxic" can have negative connotations. First of all, there is no clear definition for it. Second of all, it makes it sound like "he said she said" drama.

So let's ALL take that word out of our professional vocabulary (myself included).

Instead I would position this situation as "not a culture fit". Then I would segue into what I accomplished during that half year.

For example, "I found the company was not a culture fit, and I decided to take some time away from the workforce to work on myself. During that time / I got my X certification/ took classes for Y/ did volunteer work with Z/ built an app for ABC/ etc."

This shows that you were still growing, working on your education and profession, even if you weren't officially in the workforce.

If during your job gap you were taking care of a sick or aging family member, decided to go backpacking through South America, or took up random odd jobs, simply say so!

All of these situations show that you were still a participating member of society, rather than someone who just quits jobs and twiddles their thumbs when the going gets rough.

Do you need advice from Amy? Submit using the button below!

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