Employment record questions

Why have you had so many jobs? You seem to have had a lot of gaps in employment, what were the reasons? Was there any particular reason you left so and so, your former employer?

These are legitimate questions. The employer needs to know. It's just that they're so annoying, and bring up things you'd probably prefer never to have to think about again.

Before we start, some rules:

  • Don't lie. It's a very bad move.
  • Don't badmouth anyone, particularly former managers or supervisors.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Stay factual.
  • If there was a dispute, call it a dispute.
  • Stay professional. Leave out any self-justifications, or anything that sounds like an excuse.
  • If you got fired, say why, and stick to the dispute.
  • If you made a mistake, admit it. They need to see you understand that.

Obviously, any gaps are going to be related to an individual's own specific work history, so we can't really do a generic answer. There are common elements, so we'll work on those.

Disputes with former employers

Make sure you know what you want to say before the interview.

Just give basic information, outlining what happened.

Give a factual account of the circumstances, and just say there is a dispute about the conditions under which you left. You don't need to provide enormous amounts of information, and you shouldn't, because you could make an issue of your own statements. Stick to This happened, there's a dispute between me and the employer about who's in the right. Keep it very simple.

Do not say anything inconsistent with the facts.

You can make a liar out of yourself, unintentionally, because you've contradicted something you said previously.

If there's something you don't want to mention, don't mention it.

Gaps in employment, generally

Gaps aren't that unusual. However, you need to cover all the bases, so you also need to be realistic about this.

There's one unknown advantage job candidates have, in their own industry. Generally the interviewers are well aware of the state of the employment market in the industry, too.

So you do have a talking point.

Something like this, for example, for relatively brief, recent gaps:

As you know, in this industry, jobs aren't that easy to get these days. I had a further problem, because I'm still trying to get my career moving, and being out of work was a real setback. I didn't want to go backwards, or just tread water on the same level if I could help it. So I went looking for good quality jobs, and those are even harder to get. This job is a case in point, a job which does take me where I'm trying to go.

Meaning the truth, pretty much, when you're going for the sort of job which is what you really want.

For bigger, longer gaps:

There actually was a problem during that period. I was trying for work, throughout that whole time, but the jobs I was going for didn't pan out, for various reasons. Not making excuses, but nothing much went right. I did try other areas of work, too, but as you would know, that's not easy, when a job's outside your normal line of work. My main aim right now is getting back on track, with a solid job.

This answer is usually 100% accurate, and honest, for most long term unemployed people. Things don't work, time goes on. The important thing about this answer is that you're being objective, relating the job to your goals.

Lots of gaps, different types of jobs:

Sorry, this answer has to be a bit complex. As you can see from my job record, I was getting what work I could, when I could. A couple of those jobs simply didn't work out. There was an issue with the employer in this one, and a problem with that one. I admit to making at least one tactical mistake in not sticking to a game plan, but I didn't have much choice, because I needed work. I really should have been working on a career goal, and that's really what I'm doing here, trying to get into a real job, with real prospects.

Keep it simple, but make it clear the gaps weren't your idea. The interviewers will want some level of detail about gaps, but they need to understand your circumstances, too, and see some enthusiasm for the job. That answer covers the normal realities of long term gaps with a lot of different types of work.

Gaps with criminal record:

The gaps and my record are related problems. That was one of the most horrible times of my life. Fortunately for me, I was able to rehabilitate. Rehabilitation makes you see things clearly.. I may have paid my debt to society, but it taught me something I'll never forget. It took me a while to adjust, and come to terms with the facts. I also had to learn the basics of a real life, and be trained in my skills, and of course go for a lot of jobs. Now I'm hoping to start over, in a life I can be proud of. I'm glad to have this chance.

This is nothing less than the facts. You don't need to provide any more details than the record shows, so don't. This is your shot at putting it all behind you, keep focused on that.

Mature age gaps

There are so many various possibilities and complexities for mature age people answering this question.

If you're over 40, you'll know how complex your complete answer to any question about gaps in employment can be.

Detail isn't good. Just basics, sticking to a very easy to understand story line, so the interviewers don't get lost.

Try writing down your answer, keep it around 100-200 words, see what it looks like, and whether it says everything you want to say.

See how detail gets in the way of a clear picture? Work on it, turn it into a really easy to follow story. This happened, that happened, in chronological order.

If you were retired, and have come back into the workforce, mention that. It matters to the interviewers, and might help if there's a mature age hiring plan, which is becoming more common.

However you approach the question, put your answer in terms which relate to your skills and your interest in the job.

Important: Don't fall for the ageism trap, particularly with the gaps question. It's self defeating.

The gaps question is easily manageable.

Just expect it, and know how to deal with it.