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Ask HN: How to explain job gaps on the resume?
222 points by jobgaps 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 238 comments
I'm interviewing with several companies for SDE roles and have a gap of > 12 months since my last job. Is this a career killer and a huge red flag for any hiring manager?

The real reason for a break was medical but then got out of hand given i had enough savings to support myself and sort of slacked for a while (like 3-4 months).

Now i feel completely healthy, refreshed, passionate and ready to rock again. What is the best way to mitigate this issue when applying / interviewing?

Do you have any advices learned from previous experience or caveats i should be prepared for?

PS. My total work experience is 5+ yrs.

A gap in your resume is called a sabbatical. You spent a year doing something else that's more important to you because you can afford it. Medical plus some recovery time is a great reason. But just playing around with some new tech, investing in your education, or even spending time on your other interests, work for charity, or see something of the world, are great reasons. Slacking off may not sound great, but many employers are unlikely to care that much about the gap, and if they do, there's always a more interesting way to phrase it.

Also, if you had good reason to take time off, but the future employer still has a problem with it, you probably don't want to work for them anyway.

I think this sort of statement is thrown around too lightly. It's a bad sign, but there's a limited amount of signal in it. It may not correlate strongly with employee experience, and lots of other positive factors might outweigh it.

Maybe it's just one recruiter's resume filter. Maybe the company actually has a great medical leave policy, or pays really well, or works on something the OP is super excited by. Or maybe the company is just really, irrationally weird about applicants having gaps on their resume, but is otherwise perfectly normal, and it doesn't matter ever again after OP signs an offer.

Sure, given two offers from otherwise identical companies OP should count this as a mark against, and sign an offer from someone who doesn't care. Given offers that aren't otherwise identical, though, what's it worth? $5k in salary? More? Less?

> though, what's it worth? $5k in salary? More? Less?

Maybe a huge amount. If an employer has a negative predisposition towards you, and you already have a small negative signal on your own resume (gap)-- they have the potential to really screw things up for you. The amount of suck you might endure is unbounded, and the probability of your recent experience on your resume becoming worse is too high.

I think this answer misses the point, which is that this information is only a weak predictor of the problems you describe, thus must be discounted accordingly.

How do you discount "personal catastrophe" appropriately, though? Surely the volatility in outcomes is very important, and not some simple expected value.

A 5% chance of my house burning down is much more costly to me than 5% of the economic cost of my house burning down. Indeed, there's not really a (reasonable) discounted price I will take for a chance of my house burning down.

Of course, this kind of aggressive avoidance of risk is exactly the thing we are annoyed with the employer for... But most employers do not have their eggs in one basket to the extent that someone returning to their career from a gap does.

You normally wouldn’t discount linearly. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put a price on it. There’s a limit to how much you’d pay for insurance, for example. Some risk is part of life.

I didn't say one can't put some price on it. I said "maybe a huge amount" in comparison to someone saying that perhaps one would value it at $5k.

$5k this year is small compared to future potential career earnings; not much of a difference in probability of losing those is required to far exceed $5k. Just strict linear expected value could be bad, let alone when one weights the risk and volatility.

I'll echo this, and add in what some other commenters have said below: you might want to consider leading with your sabbatical in an interview. Talk about it in a positive way, and how you're refreshed and ready to come back to work now.

I would advise against leading with it... and having a glaring hole in the resume timeline.

So, (eg) if you didn't work all of 2018 and 2019, don't list that time at all, unless you did something relevant to your career.

I certainly wouldn't open with it... nor avoid it. Honesty is the best bet. If it comes up, sure talk about it, but talk about what you did to keep your finger on the pulse, what you researched, etc... just like you would with any talking point in an interview.

Once, early on as a kid I took 12 months off (but wrote an accounting package and some stock market correlation tools), and regularly took a month or six off between gigs.

what if the gap isn't one I took because I could afford it but because i literally could not manage to acquire a job otherwise despite attempting to

Of course there are creative ways to present that as a sabbatical too, but that might be putting a bit too much spin on things. The big question is: what did you do in that time apart from job hunting. Did you study new skills in order to put them on your CV and improve your chances? Then focus on the new skills you learned.

In my experience, though, it's not that big of a deal. I've been unemployed for over a year in the wake of the dotcom crash, from 2003 to 2004 in my case. I still regret not using that year more productively, and mostly spent it playing Morrowind. Applied for tons of jobs in the mean time, but couldn't even get invited to an interview. Once I did find a job, I found 3 of them. 3 employers were suddenly eager to hire me, and none of them cared that I spent that year mostly playing Morrowind. Sometimes the job market just sucks, and many employers understand that. But your story certainly looks better if you spent that year working on some interesting private or open source project, instead of playing a game.

As a person who's reviewed a lot of resumes, I don't actively look for job gaps, so I probably wouldn't notice. I'm more interested in what technologies you use (role), and what you've done in the past (experience). As long as you are sharp and know your stuff, you'll do fine.

Even if it is a red flag to some, I strongly believe software interviewing is a numbers game, due to randomness and bad interview processes. And once you do get a job and get back in the workforce, if you don't like it, you can switch again. And you at least won't be in the middle of a current gap.

I'd just definitely have a a go-to answer when you interview, and medical is a totally fine answer there. I don't think any competent hiring manager would ask past that due to legal risk (although there's always someone who asks illegal questions at interviews anyway).

Best of luck!

I concur. I look for whether what you already know fits what we need and complements what we have. If there's a gap I might ask offhanded about what you were doing, but spending a year slumming in Cambodia is just as acceptable as taking time off to care of your invalid parents. What I care about is what you can offer, and if you'll be able to fulfill that potential.

Can I bring up the converse question - who would actively look for job gaps? And why?

I usually look for time patterns in CVs. Gaps could be part of that. If someone turns over many jobs quickly I don't want to pay to bring someone up to speed only to see them leave when they should hit their stride. Or a month or 2 gap after every job can indicate they are getting the boot as most people swap one job for another.

But one gap for a year, not many would really care I suspect as long as there is a reasonable rationale if they do ask.

If someone had many long gaps then if might flag there is something going on and you'd dig around.

> Or a month or 2 gap after every job can indicate they are getting the boot as most people swap one job for another.

Or it's a chance to take a stress-free break after finishing up one job as you've already another lined up.

Possible. I try to do that myself every change but typically I find/see companies wants you ASAP (especially if you have a decent notice period already) and is flexible with a week or few, not a month or few unless executive level.

> Or a month or 2 gap after every job can indicate they are getting the boot as most people swap one job for another.

That's a bad metric. I have never been fired but have a few months gap between each job. That's how long it takes to get a work visa.

I know some HR look for consistency and 'internal progression'. Relying on past history of consistent career progression suggests, to them, the vector the individual is on. Completely ex-post and opaque at the best.

Having being called a "maverick" during past moves, this doesn't gel well with me. It's lazy. But it is common. Finding a fantastic HR person is indeed an honour. Finding a fantastic one however is not commonplace, it's often box-tickers that have little understanding or desire for understanding, just a KPI.

I do, or at least would notice if eg your most recent job ended 12 months ago. Mostly because I'd be curious what you've been doing.

Saying sabbatical and/or medical issues would be the end of the questions.

I'm sure there is probably someone who is worried about job gaps and actively looks for them, but I think in general I might notice a gap if I was trying to tally up someone's years of relevant experience on their resume.

Yep. I've reviewed thousands of resumes but I never paid much attention to gaps. Gap of 1 year wouldn't even register in my brain.

Oh gaps are usually pretty interesting. I once dug into a big gap (3 years) and went down quite a rabbit-hole with a candidate that was in every other respect excellent.

But the gap: Let's just say it was the worst thing you can imagine.

Prison for almost killing their interviewer for asking about an employment gap.

Second gap for killing and escaping the prison.

3 year gap would stick out for sure. I think it's also depends heavily on when the gap was, and what followed after.

He was installing Chrome over a modem connection.

Now I'm intrigued but I'm assuming something like jail/prison. :D

Nah, that's just the first thing you've imagined. I think: commander of concentration camp for disabled ponies and baby elephants.

The worst thing I can imagine would hardly leave only a 3 year gap.

Did they get the job, though?

The things you do between roles define you as a person and make you interesting. Use them as such. Tell the truth: I was sick, had enough savings to heal up and take some time off, and now I'm fresh and ready for the fight. I also did X Y Z and A B C, had some fun. Play time's over, and I'm looking to work hard.

If they can't appreciate that, then they wouldn't appreciate you in general. A self-solving problem.

Personally, I would never, ever mention anything whatsoever about my health in a professional setting (or a personal one, but that is a different topic). It’s absolutely none of their business, and invites silent discrimination, or worry about future health issues. In the best case it frames you as someone who is sometimes sidelined, not hearty. Why do that to your sales image?

My grandfather had a saying: never talk about your health unless it’s good.

I have some relatively minor and common chronic health issues (fortunately well-managed). The day my clients or upstreams hear about any of them will be the day they are invited to my funeral—not before.

I knew a guy who was desperate to fill a cashier job. I recommended my friend who fit the bill - honest, able to stay in the same spot all day, polite, has managed teams. The guy was excited.

However, he got into an accident once, lost a leg, which was reattached and partially replaced with metal a few years ago. He walks with a limp, but can walk and stand fine. It shouldn't affect his job unless it involves heavy lifting or running.

What shocked me was just how fast the potential employer changed his tone when he found out.

If you live in SF, ill refer you to some places, you dont have to explain the gap to people, ill tell them its better that you dont know for legal reasons, but its a good valid reason and they should consider you.

2nd this approach.

Those are rookie numbers. 12 months is nothing. Try an 8 year gap - after an initial 3 years experience working as a .NET dev.

I lived below US poverty level for 8 years with a CS degree and did the bare minimum of shitty contract jobs because I didn't want to be coding for someone else... eventually I realized I suck working for myself. (and now I have a normal 6 figure dev job)

The main thing you have to have is a story. I lied and said I enjoyed coding products in SecondLife and made tens of thousands of dollars coding inside a videogame, even though the truth was I only made a couple thousand. I also made my contract work sound more important, and went through the various startup ideas I tried and had a good story on why they failed. As long as story sounds plausible, it seems like you learned things related to the work, and you seem like a good person someone will give a shot as contract-to-hire even with an 8 year gap. So I think a one year gap won't be a problem at all, you shouldn't even need to do contract-to-hire.

Just tell the truth. Medical is a perfectly valid reason.

Tangent: What does it say about hiring culture that a gap of 3 months is a potential deal breaker? Like anybody who would ever deign to not be employed by choice is unhirable. God forbid that people are defined by anything other than having a career working for others. A person's worth is not defined by how much economic value they create.

I would go further and say your 'tangent' is the actual issue we should discuss here.

They want to know you weren't in jail. That's it.

Fear of jobs gaps is also about avoiding bad candidates. If someone has a longer gap, there's a chance that he was interviewing the whole time and, during that time, got dozens/hundreds of rejections. So, the lazy heuristic is to assume everyone else was correct and reject him as well.

That's what background check is for.

A lot of startups (especially really young ones with no hiring process) don't know how to do those.

And I assure you that some startups intentionally choose not to!

Isn't that illegal in California (and many other places) before you've made an offer?

AFAIK misdemeanors have to be checked at the county level, and a lot of background checks skip them unless asked specifically (hence checking about the gaps).

Funny you mentioned that, i've seen a FB job posting mentioning they are ok with misdemeanor on the record. I wonder if there's a time they will okay a felony on file.

I believe the city of SF doesn't allow employment discirmination based on that in 2020, so FB would harmonize their hiring rules because they have an office in SF.

Oh for sure - it's weird to be judging based on most misdemeanors. I was commenting on how it's done by those who do it.

I'm not sure it is a potential dealbreaker. People just think it is.

It's certainly not an issue in a hot job market.

I've certainly been asked about literally 3 months of gap. Exactly 3 months.

And unless its a second job (or you don't have any savings) taking several months to get the right job is the best thing to do.

Last time I took 5 months to get the right job and ended up with a job locally and not having to commute and a big pay rise.

I was also recuperating from a major operation about 4 months before I left me previous job

Do you think the vague `medical` needs further elaboration?

I sure do know my medical is not related to mental health. Is it reasonable to somehow indicate that or it should be better left for an interviewer to inquire?

In the USA I am pretty sure it is actually illegal for a company to discriminate based on health issues, so a smart recruiter will NOT push this issue further than Medical. It would violate a few things and not be great if you sued and used that in court.

Legally, they can't, but the fact that you were out for months for an unspecified medical issue suggests you're likely to have more medical issues and thus would be a reason to be less likely to hire you.

Really they should accept that as it is and move on. You may want to reassure them that the medical issue is resolved, assuming it is, and you too, move on. If you're in the US, then they aren't even allowed to ask more questions. You're not obligated to even mention it was medical, for that matter.

It's illegal to ask further about medical, or any personal information like marriage status, etc. Medical is a good enough answer.

It is perfectly legal to ask, but that opens you up to accusations that you also discriminated. You no longer have the defense that you didn't know the information, and the court would want an explanation for why you were asking.

It's hard to imagine an illegal question under US federal law, but I suppose there could be one where the question itself is sexual harassment or an attempt at stealing trade secrets.

So basically as soon as you ask it you are pretty much obligated to hire them.

I'd just tell the truth, I've taken off plenty of time and I generally just put it on my resume to save them having to ask: "took of some time for health related reasons and then decided to use my savings to spend some time with my passions" or whatever it is in your case. If this is a problem for a hiring manager, that's probably a red flag for you as well. I hope it doesn't end up being a problem for you; it's never been one for me, but every company is different. Best of luck!

Thanks! I'm still a bit hesitant to add a section describing the nature of the hiatus to a list of previous work experiences.

Seems a bit unprofessional to me as if the work experience is sorted in descending order — the gap is gonna be at the top.

So i'm at crossroads here: risk and add the medical section or prepare an answer if a follow up question even occurs. With former i'm blatantly throwing it to the face, with the latter i'm more moderate.

Contrary to what most people are saying here, I would advise to not mention medical issues. People are weird: they will be understanding and have sympathy, but when it comes to who gets the job, there's a good chance this will work against you. Not openly (it's illegal, after all), but subconsciously. Don't see this as lying; remember that it is your right to not mention this. Of course, you shouldn't conjure up some fantasy story of what you did during that time either, but in my opinion, labeling this as a sabbatical is OK.

Thanks for adressing this as this is a very valid point.

I was at the start of the process with two major companies in their respective markets just weeks after i got hospitalized (which echoed back my 12 mth hiatus later).

At the initial screening i have mentioned the reason of reschedule to be the hospital stuff. Words of support and `i know a person who have had the same problem` type of stuff came along. Next thing i know i'm out of the loop with both HMs.

One can only question was this a coincidence or an assesment i wasn't going to fit due to health troubles.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I'd say this was not a coincidence. For HR, possible medical issues are always a red flag. This is the reason they're not allowed to ask about that stuff. Frankly, I'm a bit astonished by the other answers in this thread who say it's fine to mention this. Ask yourself: If there's another applicant with similar qualifications but without medical issues in the past, who would get the job? What can you possibly gain by mentioning this?

I am in the same boat as you. I have a serious medical issues that is ongoing, but when I want to and am capable of working I'll have to explain it.

I guess the conversation could go like this: Why were you not working for two years? "Heart transplants are a bitch"

Do not mention the medical issue if you can avoid it. Mostly because it is not a career move. What did you learn in that time frame? Even if it is that our healthcare system sucks. And then create a failed company that was exploring a health tech idea.... who knows upon reflection - you might find a real business idea!

I had a 5 years gap in my career - all medical. Recently, right after that gap, I was intervieweing with multiple companies - most of them didn't even ask me, even though I was worried as hell. In the end I got almost all job offers I wanted. The only notable exception that didn't even grant me a phone screen was Amazon, their recruiter told me that ML has advanced so much in those 5 years that all my prior experience is totally irrelevant to them anymore. Oh, really. Whatever. In the end I ended up joining Facebook.

So with your 12 months gap and your prior experience, I would say nothing to worry about.

What I learned in my career so far is that all these things that supposedly harm your resume are actually good things; they serve as a filter for exploitative and undesirable companies.

For example, I bet the real reason why Amazon didn't hire you is because they want to hire people who are afraid to take any time off; people who don't have a personal life. They want people who they can fully control.

The requirements of a company says a lot about the company. Having a 'bad' history can actually help you in finding the right job for you. For example, I'm pretty sure that if you put in your resume something like "I want to get paid a lot for minimal effort because I'm lazy" and you distribute a few thousand copies of your resume, you will get responses and you will find what you asked for.

The worse your history is, the fewer responses you will get; you can easily mitigate that problem by scaling up the number of resumes you send. You have to be prepared to move cities and/or countries though.

IMO, if 10% of applications result in an interview offer, you're not doing your job search correctly. You need to design your resume and your strategy so that you only get less than 1% response rate.

Gaps in your resume are useful in filtering out undesirable companies. Also, changing companies often is also good for filtering out undesirable companies. You want to work for companies who think they're special ("not gonna happen to us" type of thinking), then after you start working for such company, they're more likely to give you a raise when you ask for one because once inside, your history of quitting gives you leverage; they know what will happen if they don't give you a raise.

> ML has advanced so much in those 5 years that all my prior experience is totally irrelevant to them

Most people involved in hiring are either not involved with the work being hired for, and thus have no idea about that side of things. Or else they're total amateurs at hiring itself who have, by virtue of having some measure of authority over it, deluded themselves into thinking they are awesome at it.

Arrogance and bias will lose you an awful lot of qualified applicants.

It's not even that hard to work around that problem, if you're willing to shut up and listen. You can easily factor an objection as a concern instead of shutting them down entirely, which lets the applicant either show you that it isn't a major problem after all, or respond in a way that confirms that maybe it is.

I can understand if he's a PhD level scientist recruit. That it takes a while to digest all the newest methodologies if he hasn't been following.

A data engineer should have no such problem. Anecdotally, when I was recruited to Amazon, all of the people who made the shots are either SDE or SDM. It could also be a way of telling you that "This role has already filled", as it is likely with all of the people lining up for data/machine learning roles.

I took nearly a year off in the 1990s, just "doing coffee shops and bookstores." I read a lot, did some recreational programming and a little travel. Basically took it easy after a number of years of high-hour, high-visibility projects (and a high-hour, low-visibility startup that essentially crashed).

Never had any trouble with that explanation.

If they don't like it, you probably don't want to work there anyway.

"If they don't like it, you probably don't want to work there anyway."

That's always important to remember.

What does it mean, though? Is it just "sour grapes is a powerful force"?

I don't know about gaps in particular but there are lots of places I thought I'd love working that wouldn't take me.

Not complicated. It means, "you probably wouldn't want to work there."

Interviewing is a two-way street. If your potential employer is intensely interested in your leisure time then that's an interesting signal, because it's unusual (I've never had a single follow-up question to why I took nearly a year off) and could point to a bad culture (lots of possibilities here, including the company being a modern sweatshop or doing very close monitoring and metricization).

Sometimes "like" has nothing to do with it.

Work is not optional for many people. I know lots of software developers that are living on the bubble because of the high cost of raising a family in the Bay Area.

I can't speak for every company out there, but for us, we've discovered that resumes and whiteboard challenges are bad predictors of great engineers. So, we simply come up with a small project that's related to what we would have you work on if you were hired and give you around a week to finish it. You can use other people's code snippets online as well as any libraries you see fit. As long as the end result is good enough, we'd move you to the next step, which is to just test if you're a good culture fit. I know quite a few other startups are doing this as well, so maybe the method is becoming popular. I would recommend you research the companies a bit and see if it's even something they'd care about first. We wouldn't even ask you to explain a gap in the first place.

A week of work for each job applied to rapidly becomes unsustainable. I personally have never done more than 6-8 hours of coding as part of an application, and only did that once.

After dealing with a few of these things, I've resolved every time I get one of these applications in the future, I'll just decline. If you want me to spend like 1-2 hours doing some small exercise that proves I can program, fine, but I'm not wasting my spare time coding the moon for you with your mind numbing full stack crud app project for some ultimately middling opportunity.

We do basically what OP said, but we ask the candidate to spend more or less 4 hours on the exercise, in one sitting or two. We also give them a fairly large project to do and say "We know you can't remotely complete this in 4 hours. Pick a nice subset that you find compelling and that demonstrates your strengths, and code that. Explain your choices." It's worked well for us - it demonstrates not just coding ability but also planning, communication, and time management.

Yes, offloading the burden and cost of the initial filter on to prospective candidates works well for the employer!

this isn't "burden and cost".... it's providing a large set of requirements and giving clear expectations about what is realistic, and the flexibility of choosing which requirements you satisfy to demonstrate your skills.

unless I'm misunderstanding why you're referring to?

The issue is the value the employer derives from this set up vastly outstrips the value the average application receives (which is severely negative for most candidates). The fact is, most applicants for such a job have practically zero chance at getting hired. Just that they don't know this. So they go above and beyond for the sake of making a good impression, and you get to throw them out after 30 seconds of scanning their submission or looking at their resume. You get the candidate to put in hours of work which you will use to cut them with as little effort on your end as possible. It's exploitative.

To be clear, this is just a general critique of up front multi-hour tests. There are ways to make these things not so lopsided. For example, make clear in the job announcement the minimum requirements so that people will filter themselves prior to putting in the effort to create some impressive application. Ideally you would have such a test later in the process so there is some investment on both sides. First pass filtering can be done with fizzbuzz-esque 5 minute exercises.

We're up-front about this test being part of our hiring process. The test is also not the first step, but follows an hour-long interview. We don't want to waste anyone's time either, so we only give it to people who really think have a good shot at passing it.

> Pick a nice subset that you find compelling and that demonstrates your strengths, and code that.

That would be fairly reasonable. The tests I got, had a heavy project offloaded upfront as effectively part 1 of the interview, with no such communicated expectation.

Do you explain why, to those who don’t make it to the next round? I did one of these, and the response I got was essentially “You didn’t make it”, i.e I had no idea of what was wrong with my code or why I didn’t make it through.

Yeah we do, but it's usually just a sentence or two, something like "we wanted to see a deeper use of language features" or "we're looking for a deeper understanding of framework x". We used to write more, but too many people would try to argue.

Same. Other than the 1 exception I mentioned, I literally tell the recruiter, "I can do a full interview and get an offer the same day in the 4 hours it'll take me to do your exercise, so you probably won't hear back from me because I'll already be employed by next week". And that has always been the case.

Not OP, but I read the one week part to mean that it is a deadline. So the task may only take an evening to complete, but having some agreed upon deadline will prevent having to deal with continually stretching out the interview process longer than necessary.

Out of consideration for people applying for the job you should seriously consider doing the culture fit first. It's not right to have someone do a weeklong project well when you could have got to a no by a 20m phone call.

How much do you pay the candidates for this exercise?

Or do you expect them to put in multiple hours without reimbursement?

How much should companies charge to review your resume when you send it in? Job interviewing is a time sink for everyone. Imo the ideal case is to read over the resume, have a phone call and be pretty sure that as long as they are what they say then they will be hired which the take home test can do.

I have had companies send out a test as the first step and then reject me after completing it because my resume didn't meet their needs even though they had that info to start with.

Here's my take on it.

Given I'm in a situation similar to OP's — took 4 weeks just to catch up with sleep and dismantle anxiety.

I was approached about a job. The process includes a home assessment with a 5 day deadline. Definitely it's doable, it's a filter yadda yadda.

But I'm asking you if the scene is really swarmed with impostors and bullshitters that you have to enforce people working for free for you to handpick? I call home assessments a tool for locating tractable employees. You know, those who wouldn't mind the OT every 2nd week of the months.

Hell, they already proved motivated working for free when they solved that home task you gave then.

You wouldn't ask the cook to work for free just to taste his dish and then decline without paying him. You wouldn't do that to a driver either. To a gardener.

Why the heck does the developer has to jump through those hoops then.

> You wouldn't ask the cook to work for free just to taste his dish and then decline without paying him.

Yes, if you are hiring a cook for a restaurant (which, admittedly, most people don't do, because they don't run restaurants) or wedding or other event (which more people have experience with) you will, quite likely, do exactly that.

> You wouldn't ask the cook to work for free just to taste his dish and then decline without paying him.

I'm under the impression that exactly this happens in the restaurant industry all the time.

Employers are abusive in all industries.

Yikes. Hopefully paid? What if the candidate is currently employed? Where do you expect them to find the time, knowing that they are not likely to be only applying to your company, but to others as well?

If they're sufficiently motivated to want the job, they will jump through the hoops.

If the job's not worth it to the candidate, they won't complete the task.


Or they're selecting for people who don't have many options.

Isn’t this the same thing people who like whiteboard interviews say? “We know Leetcode is a hoop and the most motivated will grind 200 leetcode problems”

Thinking like this loses you candidates who are applying to multiple places. It's so hubristic to think that your job couldn't possibly be equally desirable to others.

Good luck finding remotely decent candidates without an extraordinary offer at the end of significant unpaid work.

Remember, it's a two way process; any candidate worth their salt is interviewing the company.

If the candidate is worth it to the company, they won't expect them to jump through absurd hoops, and will treat them with at least a professional minimum of respect.

That just exposes our different view of where the bottlenecks are - you believe there are a limited number of coders who are up to the task - I believe there are less opportunities than 'adequate to the task' coders.

Which is true? Nobody really knows.

That's a fair point regarding balance wrt jobs/devs though the general market would seem to indicate good devs have no problems getting jobs.

But I don't see how it carries over to companies expecting a huge investment from a developer up front (a week's work, unpaid!), without some major positive differentiator from the other companies requiring decent devs.

That isn't going to appeal to any developer with options.

What's the upside, why would they invest that time - just go to the non-presumptive company next door.

The sad truth is that they likely have enough candidates to not need to consider this.

So if you have a years worth of work todo, and 50 people apply, you get the work done for free?

That would be the worst consulting experience for the company and I think you can easily tell a different between a test and outsourced work.

Also that wouldn't likely save time. If the task will take someone 2h, I'd have to spend more than that: describing the task with all the relevant context, providing a mock of the environment it needs to be plugged into, reviewing the result, fixing any issues, changing it to match the internal style, and also waiting for the solution itself which may not even arrive any time soon. It's not like every (or even most) candidates will produce something you'd want to keep.

2 hours sure. A week not-so-much.

OP wasn't clear how big the task was.

Even worse. A week long task without internal context or being able to chat with people who know it would be next to impossible to prepare. I've seen some projects which were thoroughly specced and handed over to a consulting agency. Half were not usable, the other half need heavy fixing. It was never a happy outcome.

There's a certain startup I won't name that has a reputation for outsourcing it's engineering proof-of-concepts this way.

You're certainly not going to get code you could actually put in production by doing that.

Only if they've found a way to consistently defeat Brooks's Law -- and if they have, there are much more efficient ways to exploit it than counting on free labor of uncertain quality.

First of all, I've done plenty of hiring. You should not worry about a 12 month gap. It will have a minor negative impact on getting callbacks. You might have to work slightly harder at your applications to compensate. If you're already getting calls and interviews, you've already passed through the filter since a gap is most likely to hurt you while a HR recruiter is sorting through a large pile of resumes.

You can still do things with your resume to make it more likely to get through the resume pile filter. Did you do any personal projects, classes or open source that can show continues professional interest and passion? Try putting something on your resume about it. Or if you've really done nothing but relax(which is OK!), now can be a good time to start working on professional development, then you have something to speak to when asked what you've been doing with your time.

To what degree does Army Reserve experience hurt? I have a lot of military time that overlaps with my years of employment as a corporate software developer and am considering taking it off my resume in the future to see if there is an uptick in interest on my resume.

I've never been in HR, or even in a position to hire, but if you put 2 CVs in front of me that were identical with the exception of one having guard/reserve/active duty military experience I'd always take the military one because it tells me they have are more likely to have discipline (even with knowing how big of screw ups several of my friends that served are).

And if there was a degree, i'd just assume the military was the way it was paid for as I've got probably a dozen friends that got their 4-year degrees via their military service.

I think in general it would help since it would indicate a respect for authority and a willingness to do difficult things. It does depend on the specifics of your resume. Is the Army Reserve experience written in a way that might make it seem like you were more focused or interested in the military than your software career or is it presented as a nice compliment to a strong developer resume.

And sure an individual hiring manager might have some bias against military experience for wherever reason, but my general advice is not to hide who you are and that you'll find a company that wants to hire you for all the great experiences you bring to the table.

Can’t see why it would hurt, and it’s obviously much easier to explain than a gap.

>>If you're already getting calls and interviews, you've already passed through the filter since a gap is most likely to hurt you while a HR recruiter is sorting through a large pile of resumes.

I get Linkedin messages most of the time since i updated my profile to conclude the last place of work.

>> Did you do any personal projects, classes or open source that can show continues professional interest and passion?

Yes i did, but it failed as it was a venture to start off a web service with other people that ended up being unenthusiastic to contribute. All i have is a HLD document, couple of modules and task boards at Gitlab. Nothing to really brag about.

I think that venture is plenty to talk about with an HR recruiter. Is demonstrates that you were still engaged with your career and approaching it from new directions that could give you a new perspective. It might not be something to brag about, but a fine answer to "what have you been doing for the past 12 months?"

If you are getting calls off LinkedIn then you are already passing through the HR recruiter filter and the gap is not holding you back. And a hiring manager is much less likely to care about the gap and will be much more focused on evaluating your skills and your personality.

Individual software development venture is a great gap reason (and probably means it could be not a gap at all). Think and be prepared to talk about lessons learned, including technical, business, and people management.

“Took some time off to explore projects. Exited to get back to work.”

No answer to this question will be cited by the hiring committee/etc as a reason to thumbs up a candidate; many answers will be cited as a “red flag.” Give the minimum amount of signal and move on.

The main thing would be to explain that it was medical, that it is over now and you are healthy again. The fact that it went on a few more months than necessary isn't really relevant, although saying that you took a few extra months off at the end just to refresh yourself does reassure that the health issues are, in fact, all over.

It might be worth practicing, alone in front of a mirror or something, explaining this. It may or may not get asked, but if it is you want to have your verbiage ready. But health issues are not rare, and wanting to take time off because you have the money to do so, is not something most people would have any problem understanding. I've known several people who did that, and they all got employed again later, without too much trouble.

"Family medical emergency".

It's not a lie (you are your own family) and they can't legally ask anything more.

I stopped putting months on my resume. Nobody cares what month you joined or left. A gap of less than 2 years won't even be noticed.

"Job X, 2000-2003; Job Y, 2004-2008." I guarantee no interviewer is ever going to say "So you left Job X on December 31st, 2003, and started Job Y on January 1st, 2004? I don't believe it. How long was this gap, really?"

Job hunting often takes months, and software engineers make enough money that they have enough saved to not need to work every day to make rent. If they give it any thought at all, interviewers are going to assume you quit in the fall, spent a few months on vacation, spent a few months on job hunting, and started again in the spring.

It's become an industry joke in my circles that software engineers never 'take vacation'. They work hard for 6 to 18 months until their startup goes bust (or their consulting contract is up), take a few months off, and jump in again.

All the Dev jobs that have required security clearance all wanted exact hire and termination dates. For some of those from years ago, I'm giving a date in good faith, but if they really care, they'll catch it in the background check.

1) Personally I don't think you need to explicitly address it on your resume. I personally know lots of tech people who have taken 6-24 month off to travel and had no problems getting interviews / jobs.

2) The main place I could imagine this gap coming into play is the sourcer stage (ie the recruiting person who reviews all of the incoming resumes), since most hiring managers doing resume reviews will mostly be looking for technologies / job experience. To avoid this you can lean on your network to see if you can get a referral to roles or look for head hunters who can skip you to the initial screen.

Good luck!

TBH, I'm in a similar situation but with three years since I worked in the industry. I burned out, moved out of the Valley to be close to family, and worked odd jobs, mostly IT.

The odd jobs are getting old, and I miss programming.

I did a sabbatical in 2014 and nobody cared.

I was 16 months without a job. Learned an instrument, tried to built a video game, studied a bit of CS.

Probably a question of how you frame it.

I echo folks in this thread who suggest being honest. In my opinion it says a lot about you and how you communicate, as well as a lot about how the org thinks about their employees. i mean, you essentially took a sabbatical (regardless of the reasons) after more than 5 years in your career. individuals may quibble about the length-before-break, but several companies have a sabbatical-like perk built into their comp plan.

I always wonder what the HR person would get all upset over a gap for? Can someone tell me about the time they rejected a candidate because they had a gap in their employment? lol :D

I mean why do they care. If I save up money and take a year off every few years? That just means if I get bored of them I'll walk out.

It sounds like the kinda thing people care about because they're told to, but they don't actually have a reason why.

Getting hired is a competition. If you're up against another person who is laser focused on their career to the exclusions of all other hobbies or priorities in their life, then that person is more likely to get a call then you are if you just took a year off to do whatever. Companies get many resumes for each opening and they just can't call everyone. At some point you will start getting filtered out vs people who are a better fit "on paper."

However, hiring decisions are not just made on the skill suitability of candidates. If you are an interesting person with enough passion for life to go live it for awhile up against a person who has done nothing with their life for the last 10 years but code for 14 hours a day, you are going to have an advantage. People hire people they like and want to spend time with. That's the reason why technical interviews are mandated by many companies, because companies know without them it's a popularity contest.

Go live your life and chase your passions. It's much better than the alternative.

I agree with some part of your second paragraph. If I met some guy who did nothing but code 14 hours daily for 10 years, my first guess would be that he may be mentally deranged and impossible to work with on a team. Maybe 10-12 hours 5 days a week for many years I’d just think he’s very serious about his career. Beyond that he may be a crazy person.

> I mean why do they care. If I save up money and take a year off every few years? That just means if I get bored of them I'll walk out.

Your last sentence is exactly why they care. They don't want people who will quit when they get bored; they want people who need the job.

I know people who have used words like "flaky" and "transient" and "unreliable" to describe people with gaps. To the people making such judgements, an involuntary gap indicates incompetence, and a voluntary gap indicates someone who is confident, independent, and unlikely to put up with bullshit (and thus more likely to quit).

Have you been part of the hiring process before? It's very time-consuming, stressful, and hard to make a choice.

From the interviewers perspective, there's a higher chance that the person who hasn't worked for 12+ months simply isn't good enough to find a job, and it could be a waste of their time/resources to interview them instead of the person who has been consistently working.

> Have you been part of the hiring process before?

Yes for decades.

> It's very time-consuming, stressful, and hard to make a choice.


> From the interviewers perspective, there's a higher chance that the person who hasn't worked for 12+ months simply isn't good enough to find a job

This is called sexism.

Women are most likely to be the person who raises kids takes times off to help parents.

You have just justified sex discrimination. In you are interviewing, step up and do the job properly. Interview the candidate not your stereotype.

> there's a higher chance that the person who hasn't worked for 12+ months simply isn't good enough to find a job

surely that can't really apply if the same person held good jobs for a reasonable length of time either side of the gap though?

> but they don't actually have a reason why. I once heard an interview with a recruiter (don't recall what industry) who said something along the lines of companies don't want to hire currently-unemployed people "because of the risk." My reaction (having been laid-off over 6 months earlier) was "Risk? What risk? The risk that they'll take a lowball offer because they need a job?"

Wow! I really didn't expect the topic would get that much traction.

Props to the commnunity.

I'd like to summarize the points that stood the most strong to myself and that were most common among the commenters.

The obvious:

* Don't lie. If you don't feel like being completely upfront just keep back.

* Build confidence. You should not feel guilty for taking a break.

* Don't put the hiatus at the top of your work experience on CV.

The not so obvious:

* If you have been on medical, think twice if coming up with this is worth the risk. You may get chewed.

* Sabbatical is always a safe bet. Elaborate if needed on the achievements, personal growth, projects that you've been up to.

* Be prepared to get lowballed if you have no other offers at your disposal.

* Express eagerness to get back into the game.

The impalpable:

* Don't bring the break into focus unless the hiring manager brings it up.

* Prepare a good answer if being asked on the nature of the gap. Don't overburden with details, be brief and concise.

Feel free to add points that i might've missed. And thanks again for the good advice.

Just be honest. Seems fine. As someone who speaks with many candidates a week, I'm more worried about people who average 1 year at various jobs across 5 years (such as someone working 4-6 jobs in a 5 year span) than someone who has a year gap that is likely more reasonably explained.

Gaps are fine, and normal. Things happen (personal medical, family health, kids, breaks, personal pivots, ...). Be prepared to talk briefly about them if asked so you do appear to be caught off guard. Just keep it simple, consistent, and move on with the conversation.

I wouldn't want to work for a company that frowned upon a gap in work experience based on a medical issue. If the topic comes up, tell the truth. If they balk, you should run fast and hard from that company.

Entrepreneur time. I explain the few gaps on my attempts to create something of my own. I don’t mind saying it didn’t work out as I hoped but I got bit by the bug of creativity and went for it. Glad I did.

I did this also. I usually had examples or actual websites to show when they asked for details. Unfortunately, none of my start-ups took off, meaning I'm stuck in the middle class. 1 or 2 maybe could have if I had devoted full time to them, but couldn't at the time.

"I required time off to provide care for a loved one". No further explanation beyond that is owed.

And that loved one can be yourself.

This comment needs more attention. In fact you made me tear-up a little.

Taking the time and effort to care for yourself is worth the effort because you are worth it.

Yea don't lie. That won't go well if you get hired and now you have to remember to keep some lie consistent.

IMHO another reason to not lie is that it further erodes the character of the lier. Lying gets easier with practice. The self-discipline of facing consequences rather than dodging them weakens. Justified guilt accumulates and weighs down the pyche, at least for some people. It gets harder to trust others, as it become more normal to assume they are lying to you.

Why wouldn't it? The people who care about a resume gap is HR, and the people you work with are not those people. The daily people you work with don't care what your past is, it's only HR that has a negative opinion of job gaps on hire-ability.

> "I required time off to provide care for a loved one"

But that's a lie.

It's not a lie (providing care for yourself), and your potential employer has no right to additional information as it relates to your medical condition and why you needed the time away from employment. Don't disclose what you don't have to. It provides you no benefit, and can only be used against you. Why would you sandbag your employer opportunities (and the ability to support yourself) because of faux moral hazard?

More importantly, why would one feel an employer is entitled to detailed information about this gap? It is none of their business.

It is a lie. You weren't providing care for a loved one (that's not how anyone would reasonably interpret 'love one'). It is indeed none of your employer's business. But still you should not deliberately mislead with an untruth.

Interviewers are only supposed to ask questions that are directly relevant to the job duties.

Whatever the reason for the job gap, there is no possible answer that is legally permissible. Remember more and more states are banning questions about jail time as well (look up 'ban the box'). So even if the person said, "I spent time in jail" that is still problematic. They may not have been convicted and considered innocent. Background checking services exist for a reason.

An interviewer asking about a job gap is already on sketchy legal ground.

The interviewer asking an inappropriate question is not entitled to a truthful answer to an inappropriate question that is not related to job qualifications.

Here is an example to help understand why this is problematic.

Lets say the candidate is religious. They took a year off to go on a missionary trip. If the candidate answers correctly (i.e. doesn't lie) the interviewer just discovered the candidate's religion. This knowledge is now super problematic if the candidate is rejected.

This is why good interviewers do not ask about hobbies or what the person does outside of work hours. There is a real risk of discovering protected information (sexual orientation, religion, national origin, marital status, family situation - including plans to have children, etc.).

Remember a court of law is going to hear the question and the TMI answer that the candidate felt compelled to supply.

The intent of the interviewer will be determined by a court NOT the interviewer.

It is the truth that you are not required to disclose any information about medical situations of your own or your family, or any related to familial status, including even the fact that those issues exist or are medical in nature.

How else is one able to exercise their rights in circumstances like this without some mild obfuscation? "Providing care" is saying enough to signal that it is an issue which is likely medical in nature, without disclosing anything about your own medical condition or circumstances, which is your right. If your issue is only "for a loved one" then maybe you have a point, but you should have no issue with "I was a full-time care provider" and now we're just mincing words.

The goal is to explain enough to make it clear the question is related to medical conditions or familial status, so that the legally well-trained interviewer knows not to pry any further, and the interviewee who knows their rights has a perfectly good way to avoid discussing it any further if the interviewer asks for more information.

"I'd rather not discuss details about that, as the details are personal in nature and not in any way relevant here." That's all you should need to say.

I have seen situations evolve from privately disclosing some information about medical issues as a professional courtesy, into supervisor asking for updates as a logistical concern, and later unwanted discussion that continues as a matter of personal empathy, and then sometimes even more inappropriate discussions between parties that are not involved, or more public than you wanted; conversations that you wish wouldn't have ever started, over things that should have never even been an issue that needed to be discussed in the workplace.

My advice is to exercise your rights and avoid this as much as possible, which is to say, hopefully avoid it altogether.

It is not a lie. Sure someone could misinterpret it but it is not a lie.

The reason I think it's a lie is that the intention is that someone will misinterpret it.

Then its not a lie because there is no intention for someone to misinterpret it.

If that were the case you would just say "I took time off due to a medical situation."

The only reason to invoke "loved one" here is to mislead.

Your version says “I’m a liability”. My versions says “this person has had some struggle and has their priorities in order”.

We know it sounds better - that’s not in question. The point is that it’s less honest.

It is a business, not a person. The situation this asymmetric deserves an asymmetric answer.

I recently took 2 years off, and it took a grand total of 2 weeks to interview at the company that I ended up getting an offer at and working for. I just told interviewers honestly that I had taken a sabbatical to fulfill one of my life goals of traveling the world. It didn't work against me as much as I'd expected it to. Of course I still had to pass the technical interview, which ultimately companies care most about anyways.

Most companies care primarily about your technical competence and don't really care about that other stuff. This "job gap" scare is vastly overrated (perhaps large corporations might be more anal about job gaps if they're just looking for obedient corporate drones, but there's plenty of work outside those kinds of companies).

But if you're really worried about the job gap thing, you could say that you were playing around with new technologies, working on your own side projects / startup, or freelancing. But if you have other experience, I don't think most employers really care so long as you're competent.

I once took almost 2 years off for no good reason. I traveled, visited friends and family, relaxed and generally did whatever I wanted. It was a great and memorable time in my life.

When I started looking for work again, I simply told them that in full honesty, and explained that I had enough money to do it.

Every interviewer reacted positively. Pretty much all of them said they would love to take a long time off like that and asked about my travels and about my projects.

> Now i feel completely healthy, refreshed, passionate and ready to rock again

What did you do to get refreshed again? And can you keep this up while working 40 hours a week?

First of all it is time. Some things heal slow. I thought that for any issue 3 months is just enough. I was wrong.

Second of all - medication. Takes at least six months to see any difference feel-wise and tests-wise.

> And can you keep this up while working 40 hours a week? Sure. I’m as good as new.

Cool. Nobody has any right to pry into your business. But from a practical standpoint, they would just want to know that it's not going to happen again because you're taking care of yourself now. That's all.

I put my two year travelling gap at the top of my "work history" section. I listed the skills I learned during that time - I taught myself Spanish, handled tricky logistical situations (shipping vehicle from Panama to Colombia), & learned to think on my feet.

Nobody ever talked about it like it was a bad thing, they just wanted to hear stories from the road! I have no problem getting a Software Engineering job.

I always just tell the truth. I'd rather work for a company that doesn't think it's bad that I chose not to work for 9 months. (I've even been asked by curious interviewers how I was able to take that much time off)

When I was last interviewing, I just said that I took time off to work on side projects and refresh my mind. I never had a problem. My work experience was just a little more than yours currently is.

As a longtime hiring manager I have zero issues with a break for health reasons (or any other reasons). I will ask questions about the break to understand the circumstances. My concern is how likely it is to reoccur. If you can show that it’s unlikely to affect your work on our team, and your skills are otherwise impressive for the role, then it’s no issue at all.

Thanks very much for submitting this and to the commenters offering advice. I’m also trying to come back after a gap and finding it very discouraging. The positive comments here are really helpful to change my mindset and get back a positive energy to discuss the meaningful things that I’ve done, even if they weren’t paid full-time jobs.

I have had this happen, twice, due to medical.

I tell them that one was medical and the other was a sabbatical to take time to learn the latest technologies, as I do not want to scare them off with too many medical "vacations".

Yes, technically it's lying but it's the only real way I've found to properly navigate what is a ridiculous system.

If the company rejects you for the truth it should probably not have been your employer anyway. You can use it as a filter.

I hire and manage developers for a living.

Why on Earth would you not just say exactly what you said here?

I'm sure you could phrase it a little better but, "I had a medical problem for 9+ months and then took several more months to rest after that" is not going to be viewed unfavorably in any way if your skills are up to date.

.... because I have had a friend that was discriminated against for his manageable medical condition by a medium-size tech company in the Bay Area.

(Name of company withheld because the litigation is ongoing)

I would just be very honest with what happened. My personal opinion is that every experience, and this includes job gaps for any reasons, can shape your personnality for the best. If the guy in front of you don't see what's positive in there, then, it migth be a sign that you should look somewhere else. This job gap probably had a huge positive influance on your life, since you now feel healthy, refreshed and passionate. I personaly had a burnout and had to stop working for a couple of months. When I came back to work, my employer tried to convince me to leave the company. But when he realized I wouldn't, he finally abendoned the idea. That year, I surpassed all my goals! Good luck!

I have a similar situation - although my gap is much smaller (~4 months) it still is big enough to raise questions. But it hasn't. In the last 3-4 months I've interviewed with over 10 companies (multiple stages) and not one hiring manager was interested in the gap.

However, that doesn't mean the recruiters who rejected my CV didn't care about it. And that's why, to avoid any confusion about the gap I added an item on my resume which indicates what I was up to. In my case, I travelled to India to do my yoga teachers training course. So I added the course certificate with the date clearly on my CV.

So to summarize: the best thing to do IMO is to remove the possibility of confusion by adding any descriptive piece of information on your resume.

Medical-triggered gap is joy a big deal. One thing I would worry about as a potential employer is if the candidate worked somewhere and is trying to hide that employer so that we can’t talk to them. But if you didn’t actually work, it’s not much of an issue in my book.

I never hid my previous employers but I really don't want companies reaching out to my previous job. My manager was toxic as hell and actually told me to give up when I tiptoed into telling him about some mental health issues that I was working through. He also told me everyone on my team disliked me. Eventually I did "give up" and stopped trying to impress anyone. I was also the only woman and felt extremely excluded by default. I ended up only being there for 6 months.

There isn't really a productive or healthy way to share this with a recruiter.

I mainly consult and contract, so 2-4months on the bench is normal.

Anyone who asks is just trying to get leverage.

> Anyone who asks is just trying to get leverage.

How so? As in, "you're out of the job market for a while, so you seem sketchy, and thus I'm going to pay you less"?

Handle it delicately, but yes.

I would tell them exactly what you've told us and not try to mitigate it. And emphasize that you feel rejuvenated. Having taken this break, you may be in a better spot now than many people who have been (formally) employed continuously for the same time.

I suggest a different route..find something new that you explored, if its reading up on something and compose a mini-thesis of what that subject can bring to the table as far as you applying it.

IE instead of excuse you are showing added value...much better position for you

If they don't hire you because you decided to take a year off then they're not worth working for. It's easy to be in the corporate mindset when you interview someone that this person must be somehow not a "team-player" or "go-getter" because he actually values life above working like a slave robot. Work for someone who understands the human element of life and doesn't treat another human being like an object or projects the reliability and uptime of computers to the human element.

There is a huge lack of empathy in corporate environments today which is incredibly dangerous, I think that's why work satisfaction is at an all-time low.

Your real gap is max 4 month, not much of a gap. You can fill it in with personal project that you did some other time if you really don't want to have that gap, or just say the real reason, medical and that's it.

I wouldn’t mention it; I presume because you are posting here that you are working in technology and, compared to most people, make a lot of money.

One nice thing about that is, of course, that we don’t have to work all of the time to cover our expenses.

That seems obvious to most people working in our field, I think.

I wouldn’t worry about mitigating it. If they ask, I would say something along the lines of what the other commenters mentioned re: sabbatical, but I don’t really assume anyone will ask. It’s not the red flag that it would be for someone working closer to wage slavery (where a gap might mean something more dire due to the necessity of constant work).

You just do it!

I took 3 years off between two jobs to burn through my savings. I just said "I took three years off to burn through my savings" to people and they were like "cool, fine, as long as you can still code".

I don't get the rationalization. You did not want to have any savings, so you took the time to burn them off?

Surely I'm missing something here.

No, I had savings, and didn't want to work, so I didn't work for the amount of time it took to have no savings left.

There are two major issues employers have with employment gaps.

1. Were you in jail. 2. Did your skills decline.

As long as you weren't in jail and you can show in the interview that you still have the technical skills, you should be fine.

Also, it's none of your employer's business and you could tell a innocuous white lie. If you don't want your employer to know your business, just make something up. After you start the job, it won't ever come up again.

Something everyone should take to heart: Fake it, til you make it. Just get through the door however you can and then perform. That's all that matters.

Often times recruiters are not allowed to probe any further once you bring up a medical issue. The difficulty then becomes, being able to draw upon relevant and timely situations to answer questions in an interview.

I had a 12 year gap. Went back to school, did entry level internships and then got a grad level internship which later became a full time position. You need a story and also talk to what you did to get back. There will always be folks who see the gap before they see anything else, but there will be others who find your passion real. Also network a ton, find mentors. After every interview do a retrospective with self and ask yourself what went well and what didn’t. This helped me a lot to perfect my story to an elevator pitch under 2 minutes.

FWIW, in some places, even employment status is a protected category: https://www.foxrothschild.com/publications/new-york-city-now...

I remember my employer mentioning how questions can no longer ask what the candidate is working on, but can only ask the candidate's experience (no pointers about timeline of such experience).

I have a similar background as yours, a gap of 1 year, 5 years of experience and I joined a startup 2 days back. I dint really felt any difference in the way companies treat people with or without a break, if you are technically sound nothing else matters. But, a few companies might negotiate for salary as you don't have any offer in hand. It's always good to do small projects and upgrade your skill set during the break. Anyways you have medical reason, so it shouldn't be a problem.

One guy I hired just had it listed there as hiatus on his resume. His company was acquired and he took some time off after vesting. Didn't stop me. It didn't actually work out in that case, but I don't think it was because he took the time off.

EDIT for reply since I'm rate-limited:

> The period was slightly over a year. The resume described what he did which was roughly (without going into detail that would de-anonymize) "spend time in a tropical country relaxing". He described what he did to me verbally.

Was the hiatus period large?

Did the resume provide the explanation to hiatus or that was communicated verbally in a talk?

I personally don’t answer questions about this or salary. The discussion is about working together now into the future. Saying no and why is this question important to you (if it’s really of interest) seems the most ethical thing to do without more info. As I recall one State recently and finally made it illegal to ask about prior salary, and in Oakland about criminal record for housing. These one sided concerns are bad for the economy short and long term. Competition and focus drive innovation.

"Personal reasons" or "health reasons" - if they probe farther they get into questions they are not legally allowed to ask. Just remember that the law (at least in the US) protects you from answering details - if they have been briefed at all about how to interview legally they will instantly back off that line of questioning.

Try to stay at your next job for at least 2 years (5 is better) so your next resume can just show the year you started/stopped working there thus hide the gap.

> Just remember that the law (at least in the US) protects you from answering details - if they have been briefed at all about how to interview legally they will instantly back off that line of questioning.

It's been my experience that interviewers do not back off of that question.

It's news to me that it's a legally protected question.

See a lawyer for legal advice.

They need to be very careful about probing. Personal reasons quickly leads to family status which is illegal to ask about. Likewise health can mean a disability that they are not allowed to ask about. For both of these it is important to remember the courts will judge with hindsight - given a sensitive situation was the cause of being out of work how can the deeper probing not be an effort to find out about the situation they are not legally allowed to ask about? Thus extreme care must be used in probing farther to ensure it is clear you are not asking about anything illegal.

Bottom line: it is legal to probe but you better have a lawyer do the probing because the questions too quickly can be something it isn't legal to ask.

It's perfectly legal to ask.

It is however an invitation for legal trouble, because it will change the presumption of discrimination. If the question isn't asked, then the employer doesn't know, and thus it isn't possible that the information could have been used in a way that harms a protected class. (like race, religion, over-40, Vietnam veteran, sex, etc.)

Yes, you can ask about all that stuff. You can ask if somebody is a Mormon or a Jew or whatever. Your boss will probably be unhappy, because then it becomes an uphill battle to show that you didn't use the answer to discriminate against a protected class.

Like a lot of the comments here most people don't even notice the gaps if they're less than a year. I've taken 9 months of due to significant other starting a grad program and 6 months off to live in another country. No one has ever asked me in an interview. Mind you this is over about 5 years so I've only worked about 3.6 of the 5. Since then I've done quite a large number of interviews (had a case of bad job fit about a year ago).

"That's classified."

"I worked for Men in Black, which is now People in Black." Or, "I worked in Area 15, helping dyslexic aliens."

I.e., I was in jail.

If it's your only significant break then it should be ok.

You should try to be reasonably up front about it i.e. make it clear on your resume that the break was for medical reasons. You shouldn't need to get into details. It's conceivable that some recruiters may have issue with it, but they are just as likely (if not more so) to have issue with an unexplained gap.

If you're asked about it just be positive: you're completely healthy now and raring to go.

Be honest - just talk about what you did if they ask about the gap. Say you planned for it, saved a good amount of money, and took time off to improve yourself. It's becoming more common these days as sabbaticals or what not.

Be sure to also talk about what you learned during that period too though, specifically how you grew as an individual, etc. It doesn't need to be work related per se, but an improvement of some sort.

This sounds to me like the type of thing an employer would look for to have a reason not to hire. If potential employers are looking for this, something is already wrong. It could be market-driven (eg. too many people to choose from) or they already don't want to hire you, or something else.

I don’t understand why people are concerned about this, why would a gap be interpreted negatively?

Are people just assuming that a gap means prison?

Most will not even ask for liability reasons: interviewers at large companies are trained not to ask questions that can expose company to a lawsuit, which basically includes all personal questions, including medical, etc. I.e. most simple example, interviewer asks candidate about age, candidate doesn’t get hired, files lawsuit about age discrimination.

You can explain it either honestly with medical issue during an interview, phrase it as a sabbatical where you focused on something else or yourself for a year to figure out what you wanted, and did projects on the side instead of working.

Or a "fun" way is to claim you worked for any government agency who would never verify or deny that you ever worked for them. :P

You could just say what you just told us - that you took a break for a medical reason, and then chose to take some extra time off. There is something to be said for not trying too hard, but focusing on going to interviews and enjoying the experience. Having 5+ years of work experience is said to be a huge advantage as well.

If you feel it is really significant - invent a startup idea that you were exploring. It didn't work out. There are so many failed ideas in tech.

This gives you a way to put your outside learning in a "work" situation.

Don't overexplain. "The idea was X. We explored it until we determined the idea was not viable."

I've recently gotten back into a programming job after 8 mo out of work and ten years before that doing desktop support instead of my original focus on coding.

Getting back into the flow is certainly doable.

Be honest about the basic situation, don't answer discriminatory questions, and the right companies will give you a shot.

A lot of interesting responses here. While I agree with being honest about it, one issue is that the resume might be overlooked because there is a gap and you never get a chance to explain it. I am basically having to solve the same problem currently so @jobgap if you'd like to discuss pm me.

I'd just say I worked on personal projects for a year to learn new libraries/languages/frameworks.

Nobody has ever asked (then again perhaps someone has declined to talk to me for that reason?). In my cases the answer (had anyone asked) would have been easy: I took multi-year gaps to look after my kid. But it has literally not been an issue (note: my work experience is over 30 years).

Or you could just lie like companies lie about job responsibilities. Use your friend as a reference.

“I want to talk about something that some may say is a weakness. I took a Sab. But, I want to talk about my strengths and why I’m a good fit.. “

Always start with your weak points and finish strong. Setting the bar low early will make them think highly of you.

Make something up. Say you were traveling, pursuing some art project, a startup idea, etc.

I would much rather hire someone who took some time off than a liar.

> Make something up.

This is terrible advice.

Tell them you founded a job applicant filtering startup that ultimately failed because it couldn't parse whitespace. Then wait for them to laugh. Then if they don't laugh, get up and leave: I think we're done here.

If it was something like a 5 year gap I'd probably have some questions at least about what was going on in that time, a year or so and I probably wouldn't notice as long as everything else on the resume looked good.

Be honest about it. You’ve done nothing wrong, on the contrary. It’s perfectly fine to rest when you feel you need it.

To your employer it’s an asset, you’re full of energy and you can start work on short notice.

"Took 12 months off for self directed sabbatical"

1. Just shorted your dates worked from Month+Year to just Year. that'll hide gaps 2. Say you were working for yourself, consulting, etc.

I think gaps are not a big deal particularly for heath reasons. If you have some solid references from previous jobs it should alleviate any concerns.

If you don’t want to tell the truth (and why would you not?), tell them you were caring for a sick family member. Nobody’s going to question that!

Don't leave gaps.

Add "consulting".

You may consult anyone for anything and as long as the reader could verify it (in case it gets to that) you're good.

How about a mother with a 10-year gap raising kids?

Short term, follow the advice here.

Long term, work toward financial freedom so you don’t need to contort your life to appease some HR gatekeeper.

I spent a few months one summer just reading and perfecting my gin and tonic recipe. Nobody gave a rat's patootie.

Just tell the truth. You don't want to work somewhere that doesn't understand basic human stuff.

Just say exactly why you wrote above, I don't see why you need another thing to say

Just say you took a sabbatical.

When returning to the workplace, the issue quickly turns to references.

You resume will be tossed in the reject bin by the scoring algorithm.

> Even if it is a red flag

Why is it?

tell the truth but use hipster words like , restoration, elevation, inspiration ect.

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