What’s with the gap?
There’s nothing unheard of about having a gap or two in your employment history. The reasons are as diverse as they can get: travelling, sickness, being made redundant, family, a mismatch of personality with the new supervisor, even being fired. No recruiter will be surprised to see some gaps in some CVs. However, they will most likely want to know what happened there.
The first thing you need to remember about those unemployment periods is that it’s better to address them than swipe them under the CV rug. Because there are a lot of chances they will come up at a simple background check and by then you will have lost your credibility.
However, you might feel that a certain lengthy gap in your work history could be the reason why you won’t be called in for the interview, although you are clearly a good fit for the job. If this is the case, you could, temporarily, avoid mentioning the months of your employment and stick to the years only. Of course, this is acceptable only if once you are in the room with the recruiter you bring up that sabbatical and explain what happened.
So, what does the interviewer want to know about the gap?
1. What happened?
What was the reason behind it? If it was a <series of unfortunate events>, like budget cuts or a case of not first-in, therefore not last-out, be sure to say so. If you were fired, do go through the trouble of explaining what happened, assume your share of the responsibility and focus on what you learned on this occasion. If there was a higher purpose behind it, like a career shift, the need to invest more in your development, then the interviewer will surely want to know about that.
2. What did you learn?
No matter the reason why you were forced to take a break, focus on the lessons you learned out of it. If it was to take care of someone in your family who needed your help or to get your MBA, find at least one thing that changed for the better during the break. Something that shows the time was not wasted from the workforce point of view.
3. Are you ready to come back?
If you are just returning from a break, then this is a subject you need to touch: how things are now sorted out, how you have learned what you needed to learn and how you are now enthusiastic about putting all these valued lessons to work.
And as a final thought, remember to be prepared, no matter the gap. Seeming to be caught off-guard and stumbling through explanations will only throw shade at your interview.