Classic Interview Questions and Answers

Why is there a gap in your CV?

Alternative and related questions:

What did you do during this gap in your employment?
Can you tell me more about this break in your career history?

The meaning behind the question:

There are two elements here:

  • The interviewer will be interested in the reasons for there being a gap in your CV – why you experienced a period of unemployment.
  • They will also be interested in what you did during that period of unemployment.

Your answer:

Most people have a gap or two in their career history. It’s very common and not normally anything to worry about. There is, however, only one explanation that an employer is really going to view favourably:

  • Further training/education

Other common – and conceivably constructive – reasons include:

  • Raising a child
  • Caring for another dependant
  • Travel

But there are also reasons which will definitely be viewed negatively:

  • Inability to find a suitable position
  • Ill health

If the reason for the gap in your career history isn’t obviously negative then there shouldn’t be a gap in your CV - you should have included a brief entry explaining the situation. This will prevent an interviewer from asking you, “Why is there a gap in your CV” and will instead prompt them to ask the more positive question, “Can you tell me more about this break in your career history?”

Further training/education: This is very simple and should already be covered within your CV - but maybe the interviewer has missed it. You need simply politely draw their attention to the further training/education you undertook and use this as an opportunity to talk about why you chose this option and how it adds value to your application.

Raising a child/Caring for another dependant: If you took time out of your career in order to care for a family member or close friend then it is very much your own private affair – but one that an interviewer should hopefully view favourably. You should have included a brief entry in your CV explaining the circumstances and the interviewer should refrain from probing too deeply into the matter. The same applies for time out to raise your own family.

Travel: Taking a sabbatical to go travelling is often seen by an employer as a positive thing. Many will believe that the cultural awareness and sense of independence you will have gained as a result of the experience will prove to be of value to them. Also, if you’ve already taken time out to travel then it means you’re less likely to suddenly disappear to travel the world just as they’ve got you settled in. This is a common worry among employers, particularly when it comes to younger employees. If you’re questioned on this then it is important to emphasise that it was something you “needed to do” and now you’ve “got it out of your system”. You may also be able to make reference to any temporary and part-time work you undertook in other countries if that could be an additional selling point for you.

Unfortunately, general unemployment and ill health are unlikely – at least initially – to be viewed favourably by an interviewer.

Inability to find a suitable position: This is definitely the most common cause for there being a gap in a CV. The problem you face is that if you tell an interviewer you were struggling to find work then that’s inevitably going to worry them. You need to deal with this by explaining carefully that the right job isn’t always available at the right time. For further advice on how to handle this then please take a look at Question 13, “You’ve been out of work for a while. Has it been difficult finding a job?” in the next chapter, Chapter 4: The top 25 tough questions: taking the heat.

Ill health: If you have been absent from work as a result of a significant illness or a major accident then the interviewer should appreciate that these things do happen. For further advice on how to handle questions about your health please take a look at Question 14, “What's your sickness record like?” in the next chapter.

The Interview Question & Answer Book

The Interview Question and Answer Book

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More classic interview questions and answers

 

How would you describe yourself? / How would your boss/colleagues/team/family/friends describe you?

In what ways are you a team player?

Do you work well on your own initiative?

What techniques do you use to get things done?

What motivates you?

Are you proactive?

Are you creative?

Are you a risk-taker?

How do you handle pressure and stress?

Can you tell me about a time when you have failed to achieve a goal?

What's the worst mistake you've made at work and how did you deal with it?

How would you handle the following situation?

Can you tell me about a major project you have successfully completed?

Can you tell me about a major problem at work that you've had to deal with?

We have a problem with x. How would you resolve that?

What do you do when you disagree with your line manager?

How would you describe yourself as a manager?

Can you give me an example of when you have successfully coached a member of your team?

What is your customer service philosophy?

How did you get your last job?

What does your current job involve on a day-to-day basis?

What contribution do you make to the department in which you work?

What changes have you made to your current job role since you started?

What have you learned in your last job?

Can you tell me about your last appraisal?

How would you describe your current boss?

Why did you leave that job?

Which of your jobs was the best?

Why is there a gap in your resume/CV?

What do you know about us as an organisation?

What do you know about our products/services?

What do you think are our organisation's greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?

What do you know about the vacancy for which you are applying?

How do your skills and experience match the job description/person specification?

What appeals to you most about this vacancy?

Why have you chosen this line of work?

Are there any other organisations to which you are applying?

How does this job compare to others for which you are applying?

Can you describe your ideal employer to me?

What sort of person would you most like to work for?

In what ways is your degree relevant to the work you are now doing?

What have you learned and how have you developed over the last year/five years?

What sports are you/have you been involved in?

Do you know what the current headline news is?

How quickly can you adapt to a new work environment?

Would it be a problem if we asked you to work overtime/evenings/weekends?

What is your current salary package?

What salary package are you expecting for this role?

When would you be available to start?

Do you mind if we contact your current employer for a reference?

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