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Asked by Miguel on January 29, 2016

I've been a business owner for many years, but getting back onto the job market. How should I explain my gap of job experience and references during a job interview?

Answered by Dan, Hiring Expert at Mutual of Omaha, on February 2, 2016

Great Question! Companies’ value diversity, new ideas and people willing to take some calculated risk and that is how business owners/ entrepreneurs operate. These skills are very attractive to many employers out there within the job market. Hence, one’s cover letter, resumes, and interviews responses should state how they were able to be innovative, be flexible, and think quickly on their feet. So it is important to convey these in one’s cover letter and especially in interviews to showcase why they want to be back in the workforce. Present one’s past within business-owning as a valuable experience that has helped prepare them for their next job. As for the resume, while one’s previous job title (i.e. President) may be accurate; it's not helpful in communicating their value. It might even get them rejected because they appear to be way overqualified. Since they were their own boss, one can retroactively give themselves almost any job title, depending on where they want to be next. As one is re-entering the job market, one’s main goal is to demonstrate their value, regardless of what their old business card might have said.

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Answered by Rachel, Hiring Expert at Eaton, on February 4, 2016

When returning to the job market it can be a challenge explaining the gap in time.  You should not put anything on your resume if the reason was personal, such as taking care of children, family, or medical reasons.  Rather you should have your story clear to speak with a recruiter about the need you had to take off time and if there were any activities that you did to continue to keep your skills sharp or continue to lead in other ways such as through volunteering or other community service work during the gap.  You may still have references through these activities which formal volunteer work can be just as effective as a more formal business reference. 

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Answered by Lori, Hiring Expert at Cigna, on February 4, 2016

This is an important question which is relevant to many individuals. Being that you've been a business owner, you may have many of the skills that a role you are interested in, is looking for. Depending on how hands you have been, you may have had oversight for supply management, accounting, human resources, technology, and facilities. Taking that experience and then communicating it both written and verbally is going to be key to you successfully gaining a new position. You will want to determine what role you are targeting and what experiences you have gotten from being a business owner that can relate to that role. If you have this experience, then in reality you don't have a gap. If you were more removed and had others handling the hands on pieces of the business, then you will want to focus on your people management experience and any volunteering you may have done. The most important thing a recruiter and/or hiring manager is looking for is to see how your background can correspond to the role he/she is trying to fill. There is so much you can bring to the table with regard to your business owner experience, so definitely do not discount it. Good luck!

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Answered by Jennifer, Hiring Expert at Archer Daniels Midland, on August 30, 2016

You should include your business on your resume and be sure to include your responsibilities as a business owner. This will help you explain your gap. Focus on how you ran your business and how it relates to the position you applied for.

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