Why is having a gap on your resume looked on so negatively? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Gayle Laakman McDowell, author of Cracking the Coding Interview, on Quora:

In some fields, it's not looked at that negatively. For example, gaps aren't a big deal for software engineers, or across tech in general. That's because there is a shortage of good software engineers, so companies are more willing to look the other way on a little thing like this. They're also less rigid corporate environments, so they're more accepting of little quirks like this.

But in other fields, it is a bigger issue. Many explanations for taking a break pose a small concern. Consider:

  • Health problems? Maybe it will happen again.
  • Got sick of working and wanted to travel? Maybe you'll do it again. Also, maybe you just don't fit into a corporate environment.
  • Had trouble finding a job? Maybe you aren't very good.
  • Got fired suddenly and that's why you didn't find a job before leaving? Well, that's clearly an issue.

Companies are hiring you because they want you to work for them. Taking an extended break could mean that you'll do that again, which somewhat conflicts with the idea of your working for them. To make matters worse, they may not know the real reason for the break (they can ask, but you can lie/sugarcoat it).

It makes perfect sense that a company would prefer that you not have a gap on your resume, all else being equal.

Of course in the real world, all else isn't really equal. You don't really have two otherwise identical candidates, other than a gap on one's resume. Many, many companies just see it as a minor "all else being equal" issue. A few, though, get too caught up in other people saying that gaps are bad and then put that belief into practice without really challenging themselves on the reasons.

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Published on: Sep 2, 2016