Don’t judge a person about their employment “gap”

Irene Marshall

I talked once with someone who had been a stay-at-home dad for seven years and now needed to find a new job. He was the Chief Financial Officer at a company when his wife died in childbirth and left two special needs twin boys. He quit his job to take care of his sons, using money that he had saved.

He had a good circle of friends and family to support him, and they understood his situation very well. They respected his decisions on how to take care of his family. But several people he didn’t know very well said that he should hire a nanny and keep his job since he made a lot of money. I asked if they said that to him directly, or if he just got a feeling that was what they thought. No, people said that to his face. It made him feel bad and very stressed.

I think that it was totally intrusive for other people to judgmental like that. How he handled a family crisis was not their business.

You might be concerned that you have gaps in your employment, particularly if you are 40 years old or higher. You do not know how that will be received by a recruiter or hiring manager. You might be afraid that the interviewer will think that you are not dedicated to doing a really good job.

  • If you have special needs children, you might not be sure how much you want to say in an interview. For this father, taking time for professional development or doing volunteer work just was not realistic. He had his hands full with his two sons.

  • You also might have parents with special needs. There are many people in the “sandwich generation”, particularly women. My mother had Alzheimer’s and I spent a lot of time to take care of her for a three-year period before she died. As long as I could keep commitments to my clients, it was not anyone else’s business on how I decided to take care of her.


I do think it is within bounds for a recruiter to ask you about a period of time you were not working. But it is not appropriate to be intrusive and judgmental. By a certain age, it is likely that everyone one will have that dreaded gap at some point in their career.

If you are the person being interviewed, and if you are comfortable about the personal and family decisions that you have made, you don’t need to be defensive. It’s your life, after all.

Irene Marshall is a career professional who has helped people get jobs for 20 years, first as a recruiter, and now as a resume writer, career coach and interview coach. She has written more than 2,000 resume and other career documents. She has a degree in accounting, and an MBA from the University of Santa Clara. There is NO CHARGE for an initial consultation.

Irene Marshall, MBA

CPRW: Certified Professional Resume Writer

CEIP: Certified Employment Interview Professional

CPCC: Certified Professional Career Coach

OJSRM: Certified Professional – Online Job Search and Reputation Management

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