It’s a question that plagues many parents who want to return to work after taking off a few years: How do I address the gap in my employment history? For stay-at-home moms (and dads) looking to re-enter the workforce, answering this question during a job interview can be especially daunting.
While some have support systems that allow them to continue working, up to 43% of highly qualified women need to “off-ramp” or take a career detour and take time off for their families. For most, it’s a difficult and complicated decision to make, and many who return to work feel they have to justify how they spent their time.
But it’s important to resist the urge to over-explain your choice, says Barbara Turvett, executive editor at Working Mother magazine. “Don’t apologize, overshare, or go into detail. You needn’t make excuses for your gap, you had every right to do what you did,” she says.
Here are Turvett’s tips on what to say and what to leave out when discussing your employment gap.
Be honest—and quick. If you’re asked about your resume gap, briefly say why, and have an “elevator pitch” type answer to keep it brief and to the point.
Talk about your experience as if it was yesterday. Mention accomplishments, stellar projects, the way you supported your team, the way you helped your company make progress. This takes focus off your gap, on your game.
Don't discuss your mom experience as being relevant to the job. Be professional, with a focus on the work.
Focus on the job, not the gap. Be sure to talk about your passion for the career you always knew you'd come back to.
Discuss your current skills. Hopefully you've kept up with technologyand any tools relevant to your field. Be ready to say how these skills will be valuable in the position you're interviewing for. Show them you've stayed a player.
Share your knowledge of the new company. As in any job interview, do your homework about the position and company you're interviewing for. Be ready with specific points about how you can ace the job and support the team. Let them know they're talking with someone who is ready to go to work.