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Coming Back From a Hiatus

November 15, 2016
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Tips for explaining a gap in your career

With everything Americans have dealt with since 2000, including market crashes, multiple wars and the housing crisis, it’s much more common now to see great candidates with big gaps in their resume. I’m talking about 12- to 36-month gaps that force candidates to explain what happened. This sort of interview can be very intimidating for a candidate who’s been passed over many times for the same reason, as they already feel vulnerable and a bit timid because of their circumstances.

The best way to address this issue in an interview is to be armed with information, confident, positive, to play to your strengths, and face the elephant in the room head on and up front. Our industry is changing so fast that to step aside for six to 24 months and completely disconnect from what’s happening can be a huge challenge for job seekers unless you are ready to quickly re-engage.

I recommend the following steps in explaining a hiatus and a big absence from the HCIT workforce:

Keep informed: It’s easy to sign up for free RSS feeds to get the content you need to understand the latest information in our industry. Every day (for years) I get multiple information pushed to me so I can stay abreast of current trends, big news, updates on CMS, new and exciting vendors, mergers, and the list goes on. Make sure you articulate how you’ve kept up with the HCIT industry during your interview.

Get re-connected: Reach out to former colleagues and schedule time to speak with them by phone. Tell them what you have been up to including your plans to re-enter the HCIT space.

  • Get a paid subscription to LinkedIn and grow your network.
  • Add 25 to 30 people a day
  • Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to HCIT that potential employers also belong to (you can join up to 50 groups)
  • Send in-mails to targeted influencers that can help you and then follow up with them to schedule a call
  • Have at least two meaningful conversations a day with people in your network 

Prepare for interviews: This is probably the most difficult task for those returning from a hiatus as confidence levels are already low and rejection from previous interviews weighs heavily knowing you have to tell your story once again. Fear not. The best way to address the elephant in the room is preparation. Try these simple strategies to help you overcome the past and focus on the future:

• Develop a talk track around your situation and practice with family, friends or in front of a mirror until you sound natural and poised.

• Talk about what happened or how you were displaced up front and proactively.

• Talk about the WHY you are a great candidate and give the interviewer some examples of how you accomplished some of your best career successes 

• Give examples to explain your value using short vignettes to engage them in the conversation.

• Make sure you are fully prepared and understand the details of everyone you will be meeting with, the organization and any of the latest news to demonstrate you’ve done your homework.

Follow-up: Make sure you send a quick note to everyone you interviewed with and briefly highlight at least one thing you discussed so they know you took the time to write a thoughtful note to them. Reiterate your interest in the role you are interested in and thank them for their time. All of this can be accomplished in a paragraph. Please no manifestos.

Be confident:  This is key. Make sure you convey confidence in everyone you talk with and don’t get discouraged that you have to explain your hiatus over and over. Do it with a smile and bring the interview back on point with WHY you are the best candidate. Finally, maintain a positive attitude. Your attitude determines your altitude; it always has and always will.

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