Question: I lost my job six months ago and have not found a new one. What do I say when asked about this gap in employment?

Matt: First of all, take a break from worrying about your employment break. In today's market, six months is not a long time between jobs. It may seem like a long time when you are not working and need a job, but the reality is many job searches take six months or longer.

What most employers are going to be curious about - and it will eventually come up - is why you lost your previous job. Be prepared to have a valid explanation for that. Were you laid off? Did you get fired? Did you leave for personal reasons? Through background checks and their own research, good recruiters will find out that information, so be honest.

This is a great opportunity to explain how you are using this time to improve your skill set. If you are taking classes, let the employer know. Discuss your involvement and roles in professional organizations or networking groups. Talk about business-related books you have read or any training opportunities you've completed.

Job Searches Vary

Remember, every job search is different, some are shorter and some are longer. And in some cases, people just want a break from the world of work. Not many of us can do it, but if you are able to take some time off and recharge, let the recruiter know that. Every recruiter I talked to about this said the same thing - be honest.

"If you've taken time off (or the search has taken longer), just make sure you convey to the employer your passion for getting back to the work you love," says Krista Cavanaugh, a technical recruiter for Digineer in Plymouth.

Also remember, just because you are in the job market doesn't mean you have to take every job offer that comes your way. Cavanaugh often hears people say they want to make the right move - not just a move for right now. If you just haven't found what you think is a good opportunity, let the employer know that.

Employers want someone who can do the job for them and add value to the organization. A break in employment isn't their biggest concern - but the skills and talent you bring to them is. Show that, and any breaks in employment will quickly be forgotten.


Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. The first Sunday of each month this column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to askmatt@startribune.com.