Navigating the career world is tough even in the best of times, let alone when you鈥檝e got a space between jobs on your resume due to聽a layoff, getting fired聽or a mutual parting of ways. Even when you know聽what not to say in an interview, planing what exactly you should聽say if and when you鈥檙e asked about the gap can be scary. Especially if you left your past job with nothing lined up in order to take time off or聽change your career, you鈥檝e got to go into every interview with a clear聽idea of how to pitch that gap to your interviewer. The key is to be confident, but that鈥檚 easier said than done when聽you鈥檙e nervous about how your experience will be perceived. We chatted with HR and career experts to find out how you can be ready for any question that comes your way.

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1. Always put something in that space. Even if you weren鈥檛 working, you鈥檝e got to account for all time on your resume somehow, according to聽Kelli Dragovich, SVP of People at Hired. 鈥淩egardless of why you may have had a gap in your career, you should never leave the time unaccounted for on your resume. Whatever it was that you were doing, include it just as you would for a job, and highlight the skills you acquired during your time off. If you were traveling, you can potentially add things like global studies, new languages and even negotiation if you frequented markets and haggled for better prices.鈥 Ooh, crafty! 鈥淢ost people have valid reasons for resume gaps, but the worst thing you can do is not acknowledge it or miss out on the opportunity to highlight how you grew from it.鈥 Every experience you鈥檝e had makes you who you are, so make sure you鈥檙e giving the interviewer the full, awesome picture of yourself.

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2. Honesty is key.聽Never ever lie about why you aren鈥檛 or weren鈥檛 working. Not only will it make you nervous during the interview, but it will also definitely disqualify you if your interviewer finds out. 鈥淏e honest!鈥 urges MWWPR Director of Talent Acquisition聽Christina Stokes. 鈥淚 usually recommend developing a short, compelling statement about why there is a break in employment that you can take into your interview.鈥 Kind of like an elevator pitch, but for your resume gap! 鈥淲hether you were managing your household, having difficulty finding a new position or traveling, I think it鈥檚 important to be straightforward,鈥 she says. 鈥淎lso, regardless of why the break is there, I also find it helpful to see that someone was聽still involved in their craft in some way, shape or form while out of the workforce, through consulting, freelance writing, volunteer work or something similar.鈥

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3. Address it before the interview, if you can.聽If you can give a reason for your break in work before you even get into your employer-to-be鈥檚 office for an interview, you鈥檒l be one step ahead. 鈥淎ny experienced recruiter will ask why the candidate took time off, and if you鈥檙e not prepared to answer the question, it could impact your interview,鈥 explains聽Ariana Moon, a senior recruiter for Greenhouse. 鈥淭he best way to avoid awkward questions and answers is to provide the employer with as much context as possible before the interview. You can address the gap in your resume by listing what you did during that time 鈥 whether it was to take a sabbatical, pursue a hobby or even take a course unrelated to your career. This transparency shows that you are not a one-dimensional person but someone with real interests who is open to learning. If you鈥檙e really concerned about what the potential employer will think, briefly talk about it in your cover letter, and position that downtime as a positive period of growth.鈥

4. Put a positive spin on it. Even if you聽left your last job under less-than-ideal circumstances, try to project that you found a constructive way to use your time during your聽employment gap and have learned something from not working. Also, it鈥檚 definitely a good idea to keep the conversation light when you鈥檙e talking about any former employer, regardless of how wronged you may feel by them. 鈥淓xplain the gap with confidence, and be positive no matter what the situation,鈥 advises聽Joe Weinlick, Beyond鈥檚 senior vice president of marketing. 鈥淚f you were laid off, it is easy to be negative about your former employer. Fight that urge, and instead explain how it provided an opportunity for you to refocus on your career, and that this job is exactly what you want to be doing.鈥

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5. If you鈥檙e really worried, reorganize your resume. 鈥淲hen in doubt, reorganize!鈥 says聽Frank Dadah, managing director of the Accounting, Finance & Administrative Contract Staffing division at talent acquisition firm聽WinterWyman. 鈥淚f you鈥檙e convinced your resume gap will kill any interview opportunities, forgo the traditional method of drafting your resume and feature your achievements first. You can list your key experience from all of your jobs together. Include statements like, 鈥楳anaged a team of six people. Oversaw $1 million account. Served as team liaison to the CEO.鈥 You can then list the dates and companies later in the document,鈥 he suggests. Playing up your strengths is always a good idea. 鈥淏y organizing your resume this way, you move the focus from dates to accomplishments during the interview.鈥

Have you ever had to explain a resume gap? How did you handle it? Tell us your best tip @BritandCo!聽

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