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How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

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Many job seekers have an employment gap on their resume due to family care duties, unemployment or attending school full time. Hiring managers will most likely ask candidates about any employment gaps. To succeed in the job search, you can list any gaps appropriately on your resume and be prepared to answer questions about them throughout the interview process to make a great impression.

What is an employment gap on your resume?

An employment gap is a period of months or years when you were not employed at a job. Employment gaps are common, and you might have them in your resume due to raising children, getting laid off, pursuing educational or other opportunities, or caring for an elderly parent or sick spouse.

Employers will ask for an explanation if you have an employment gap, so you can prepare in advance to discuss it in a positive way. With the right preparation, an employment gap should not pose a barrier in your job search.

How to explain and list employment gaps on your resume

You can use these steps to explain your employment gap:

1. Be prepared to talk about it

Employers often ask about resume gaps, so be prepared to address it directly. Your cover letter can explain them briefly, but you will want to take time before an interview to practice discussing the topic clearly and concisely. You could practice in front of a mirror or role-play with a friend.

Example: ‘I took about a year off last year to care for a parent during an illness. Now my parents are under full-time care, and I am ready and eager to get back to full-time work.’

2. List jobs by month or year

While you should specifically address larger gaps of several months or years in your cover letter, you can make adjustments to your resume to minimize the appearance of employment gaps. Short gaps will become less apparent if you list jobs by month or eliminate months altogether on your resume.

Use the career summary section at the top of your resume to highlight your career goals and your top qualifications. This draws attention to your positive qualities and downplays your employment.

Example: On your resume, you could state: ‘Sales Assistant at Company Alpha, 2009-2012; Executive Sales Assistant at Company Beta, 2013-present’ if you were not working for a period from 2012 through 2013.

3. Be honest

While you do not need to dwell on the details, it is important to be honest. Do not misrepresent the reasons you are looking for a job.

Example: If you left the workforce for family reasons, you could say, ‘I spent some time as the primary caretaker for my children. I was glad to have that time with my kids while they were young, but I always knew I wanted to return to work and I am ready to do so now.’

It is especially important to be honest if you were laid off or fired, although your answer will be different for these two cases.

Example: If you were laid off, you might say, ‘My last company underwent a restructuring and my position was eliminated. Although it was a tough time, I left with the confidence that I had developed important skills that I am excited to bring to my next opportunity.’

Example: If you were fired, you could say something like, ‘My former company and I had different expectations, but in reflecting on the experience, I have realized there are a few things I should have done differently. I am excited to bring that maturity to my next job.’

4. Fill the gap

Highlight specifics of how you spent time while you were unemployed that prepared you for re-entry. For example, volunteering or doing part-time freelance work could maintain and develop related skills. You can also discuss courses you took, any research you did to stay current, how you kept in touch with your industry contacts or any other way you advanced your professional skills.

5. Keep it brief and positive

It is common to take time off for a variety of reasons. You do not need to talk about personal reasons in detail. If your interviewer asks you about an employment gap, keep your answer brief, clear and concise, and end your answer with something positive. Once you have addressed the gap, highlight skills you have gained during that gap and ways that you can apply your skills and experiences to a new opportunity.

If you took time off for family or personal reasons, your tone should be positive. Remember that there is nothing wrong with taking time away from the workforce. This will help you to keep your attitude positive and forward-looking.

Employment gap example interview answer

If you have an employment gap, your interviewer will most likely ask you about it. You can use this example answer to prepare:

‘I had to resign from my previous position to care for my children. I had always intended to go back to work once they were in school, and I am ready to do so now. I am searching for an opportunity to advance my career further and apply some of the skills I gained while I was out of the workforce, including courses I took at night in some software applications. I applied those skills as a volunteer doing data entry work for a local non-profit.’

If you are prepared to answer questions about employment gaps in your resume in a clear and concise way, they should not pose a major challenge to your job search. Use these tips to prepare your resume and interview answers in advance.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

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For the first time in a long time, the United States unemployment rate is back on track. At 5.5%, this rate means that more people are getting jobs and more companies are hiring. For many, this is the opportune time to get back to the job search, perhaps after an extended period of not working. There are a variety of reasons to take a leave from the work force, whether you get laid off or leave to serve in the military, have children, deal with family complications, or even to take the time to travel. The questions is: what are some of the best practices to address employment gaps in your resume?

Have Confidence Moving Forward

First of all, while you may minimize the attention paid to the gaps, there is no reason to feel ashamed or as though these gaps must be masked.

Be open in sharing your employment gap. Think about what you did during your time off and frame it to show that while you were not working in a traditional sense, you have improved from the experience. For example, did you do any job training? Have you taken any professional development classes? Did you do any volunteering during your leave? Take time to reflect on the skills and know-how you acquired and frame that into your resume or cover letter.

Be Honest

After looking through countless resumes, recruiters or hiring managers are able to identify when something seems a little fishy. Many sources will tell you of strategic ways to hide your employment history by taking out the months to mask the duration of your unemployment. This is not the case. In fact, a hiring manager will mostly likely be less inclined to move forward with a candidate who appears to be misleading.

The important thing to remember in this is that as you move forward in the applicant process, you will be compelled to fully disclose your work history. Don’t back yourself into a corner where you appear deceptive. Be honest throughout the process.

Show Your Work

Perhaps during your gaps, you took on some temporary jobs, whether you were employed by another or by yourself. Try grouping these together, where logical. This will show that you remained active during a period of unsteady employment. Grouping will also help your skills and assets to be more visible than the job itself. For example, if you worked doing freelance writing while in between jobs, make that a header and list your achievements in that position, rather than listing the companies or organizations for whom you wrote. When it comes down to it, the desirable characteristics in an employee are not shown by where they worked, but by their character, work ethic, and skills.

If you did a variety of jobs, classes, or projects during your unemployment, try making a section header and listing some of those accomplishments. The self- motivation needed for this type of work can reveal a lot about your work habits, which can be desirable. For example:

Maternity Leave, June 2015 – Present

  • Completed online Managerial Leadership Certificate at University of Texas McCombs School of Business during off hours
  • Developed procedures for on-boarding new volunteers at local youth sports organization

Emphasize Skills Over Chronology

In the same vein, emphasize your skills over your employment history. There are several ways to do this. The first is to be sure the bulleted points in your resume stand out and work for you. This means that they should not merely be listing the tasks of your job, but should instead show your specific accomplishments while in a position. Accomplishments are best displayed when they are quantified to prove your skill or expertise in a given area.

Another way to emphasize your skills in your resume is to designate a skills section. A skills section can take the form of a list and should include skills applicable to the position for which you are applying. When listing skills, be sure to include both the full name of the skill and its abbreviated form so it is sure to register in Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS.

Look carefully at the job description to find resume keywords that should be mimicked in your resume. For example, if something like financial modelling is listed several times throughout the job description, be sure to highlight your experiences and successes with it — whether while in a steady job or during your employment gap. Using a tool like Jobscan.co makes it easy to see what those keywords are and maximize their usage. Again, your skills and character are important to recruiters.

Be Positive And Professional

Overall, remember that life happens. A gap in employment does not mean you are not a desirable candidate. Hiring managers ultimately want a good person, one whom they can trust. Focus on the positive and recognize the assets you can bring to a company. Take initiative and always act professionally. Don’t rule yourself out with your own attitude.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

When I was laid off in January, in addition to the usual concerns, like “How quickly will I find a new job?” and “How will we pay the mortgage?” I also worried about having yet another employment gap on my resume.

Because I’d taken a timeout from my career to raise my children, I already had a Grand Canyon-sized gaping hole on my CV. I feared that with this layoff, employers would think I was taking more breaks than an aging rock band.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s April statistics, 9.8 million Americans are unemployed, so I know I can’t be the only one wondering how to downplay my downtime and play up my skills.

Curious about how to best address my widening gap, I turned to a pair of experts for some much-needed advice. Here’s what they said.

Be Honest

Whatever the reason for your time away from work, career coach and author of The Essential HR Handbook Sharon Armstrong says honesty is always the best policy.

“Don’t hide it; explain it,” Armstrong advises. “During the entire process of conducting a job search, maintain your integrity and demonstrate it. Jobs come and go, but being known for being truthful—and conversely, deceitful—can last a lifetime.”

Here’s an example: When I went for an interview in February, I was certain the gap would come up, and it did. When I told the potential employers the truth—that I’d wanted to be home with my children and felt fortunate that I was able to do so—an excruciating silence followed. In an attempt to lighten the mood, I joked that during that time I’d done some freelance work, but I also spent a fair amount of my day tackling mountains of laundry. What happened next surprised me: They laughed and thanked me for my honesty.

“You have no idea how many people come in here and fumble through telling us about some extended project they were working on,” one of the interviewers scoffed.

Though I was relieved they found my response refreshing, I wished my answer had been a bit more polished, which leads me to my next point:

Be Prepared

Stuttering and stammering your way through your first sit-down is as unimpressive as showing up late or calling your female interviewer “sir.” Just as you’d prep to discuss your previous positions, employers are going to ask about your time off, so be ready to address that as well, says human resources director Victoria Di Santo. (In fact, one application I recently completed stated, “If there is a gap of more than three months on your resume, be prepared to discuss.”)

“I’ve heard a lot of people say they’ve taken time off to raise their children or care for a sick parent,” Di Santo notes. “Others have taken a sabbatical and traveled the world, really successful people, too, who just needed to recharge. Corporate America can burn you out if you let it, and sometimes you just need to take a break so you can return refreshed. Employers understand that. Life happens.”

Whether you managed a household, co-chaired an event that raised much-needed funds for charity, or trekked across the globe, chances are you picked up some important skills along the way—think communicating persuasively, becoming a master organizer, or adapting to unknown situations. Identify them, think through how they apply to the job at hand, and craft a short, compelling statement you can use in interviews.

“Again, be honest—it’s very possible to get solid experience in non-traditional settings: volunteer, community work, or running a home,” Armstrong says. “Hopefully you have done some volunteer work, stayed up-to-date with your industry, or done some professional development. Mention those activities that reinforce the job you are going for.”

Be Confident

While the thought of discussing how you came to be unemployed, especially if you were let go or fired, might make you uneasy, don’t panic. Resume gaps are not as uncommon as job seekers might think, Di Santo says.

Armstrong agrees. “If a company doesn’t understand what has happened to our economy since 2008 and the impact on individuals, well, you likely don’t want to work there anyway.”

While answering questions about any period of unemployment can be uncomfortable, know that you’re not alone. Being prepared for whatever comes your way and having confidence in the skills you’ve attained during that break can go a long way to bridging the gap with poise and professionalism.

More people than you may think take time off from working at some point, for various reasons. If you’re one of them, the best way to explain employment gaps in your resume will depend on your specific situation – and what you did while you were unemployed.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of or to cover up for … Just be honest, be confident, and be ready to explain how ready you are today to take on a new career challenge.

Mind the Gaps – and Explain the Reasons for Them

Here are some factors to keep in mind as you prepare to explain your employment gaps to hiring managers:

  • Think about how your “gap activities” were beneficial. You may not have been earning a paycheck, but you gained solid experience relevant to your career path. Volunteer service, community involvement and continuing education all can add to the overall quality of your resume. Remember to emphasize any key areas in which you’ve kept current with your industry.
  • Format your resume to minimize gaps. Start by eliminating specific months and just listing the years you held various positions. Use your Objective statement to summarize your goals and top qualities. Consider including a Summary Statement and Career Highlights sections, where you highlight your skills and accomplishments, versus when you did what. You may be able to omit a job or jobs, especially if you’ve been in the workforce for a long time.
  • Have an answer ready. Interviewers will want to know why there are gaps in your work history. Be prepared to acknowledge the facts and concisely describe the reasons for these career interruptions. Don’t go into your interview unprepared or hoping the employer will gloss over it. Instead, put a positive spin on your explanation and be ready to respond.
  • Be honest. An employment gap is not a surefire reason for an employer to reject you as a candidate. But lying is. If you were laid off or chose to leave a job, let the hiring manager know. Being honest about your situation gives them a sense of your integrity and confidence.
  • Be positive. Exude enthusiasm and make a strong case for why your target job would be exciting for you and a perfect fit. Avoid any negativism. For instance, never criticize a former employer, no matter what the circumstances.
  • Utilize your cover letter. If you find yourself with employment gaps that don’t easily fit on your resume, use your cover letter to explain them.

A Recruiting Firm Can Help

By working with a professional recruiter, you can get answers to all your job search questions and design the best strategy to realize your short and long-term career goals. To learn more, read our related posts or contact Employment Professionals Canada today. It won’t cost you a dime – and it may be the best decision you make for your future!

This article was co-authored by Katrina Georgiou. Katrina Georgiou is a career coach and the founder of Katrina Georgiou Coaching based in Silicon Valley. Katrina helps individuals find new careers as well as career advancement, including resume writing, interview preparation, salary negotiation, and performance reviews. Trained in the co-active method from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), Katrina uses personalized communication and leadership strategies to support her clients in building successful and fulfilling careers.

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No matter what industry you work in, creating a resume that gets noticed is oftentimes an essential part of the job hunting process. One of the issues that plague many job seekers is how to address a gap in employment. Whether the space in between roles is one month or several years, knowing how to explain your unemployment on paper and during the interview may be necessary to maximize your chances for getting that next job.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Katrina Georgiou
Career Coach Expert Interview. 25 June 2020. If you feel you must, then make sure to do so in brief.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Katrina Georgiou
Career Coach Expert Interview. 25 June 2020. Don’t use this as an opportunity to say negative things about your previous employer. You don’t want to come across as a complainer, or as a person with a negative or toxic attitude.

  • If your employer asks you about time in prison, or criminal charges, in many cases you are required to tell them the truth by law. Background checks may or may not be used, and these will more than likely reveal prison time. By being honest and forthcoming, you establish your integrity, you indicate: “you can trust me”.
  • Be vague. Talk about the work generally. Refer not to the specific task you did, but to the general industry. You might say you “had a stint in the entertainment industry”
  • Omit. In this case, you might just say that you were unemployed. Some previous employment can reflect poorly on you, and in such cases, it may be necessary to say that you were not working at all. This can be better than ruining your chances at a fulfilling job.

You decided to become a stay-at-home mom or dad for a few months or years.

You had a family emergency that required you to put your career on pause.

You wanted to quit your job to travel the world for a while.

You needed a break from the 9 to 5 life.

. And now you have a gap in your resume. You’re not alone. It’s reported that 3 in 5 Americans, approximately 59% of the U.S. population, have a resume gap . Having a gap in your resume is more common today than ever before.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

HIRING MANAGERS STILL WANT YOU IF YOU HAVE A GAP

An estimated 72% of jobseekers believe a stigma still exists regarding employment gaps that prevent them from starting or continuing their job search. But 79% of hiring managers said they would still hire a candidate with a gap in their resume in 2021 – especially given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having a few years or a few months in between jobs used to be a big hurdle for jobseekers to overcome in the past. It raised eyebrows for recruiters and hiring managers, and also prompted a slew of uncomfortable and overbearing questions about the candidates’ faithfulness and loyalty to their job.

Are you dependable?

Are you reliable?

Can we trust that you’ll stay?

Regardless of whether the reason for your employment gap is by choice or due to circumstances out of your control, there’s no reason to be ashamed of having to or needing to take time off work. Your gap doesn’t make you undesirable, unemployable, or damaged goods.

As a society, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we’re failures or lazy if we’re not working every single day of our lives, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

WHAT ARE THE TOP REASONS FOR A RESUME GAP?

According to a Benefits Pro survey , 48% of resume gaps are family-related. This includes taking time off to start or raise a family, take care of a sick family member or friend, and taking an extended paternity/maternity leave.

Getting laid off was another top response, with 37% of survey participants saying that the gap on their resume was the result of the company downsizing, going out of business, relocating, or their position being eliminated.

16% of people stated being fired was the reason for employment inconsistency, as well as unexpected or unforeseen job loss.

Other reasons include going back to school, which accounted for 18% of answers and needing a mental and/or physical break from work.

There can be many reasons why resume gaps occur and no reason is better or greater than the other. However, you should never lie or try to fudge details surrounding it on your resume by falsifying the end date or start date of your current or last job. This could cause you to lose an offer if it’s revealed that you’ve been deceptive.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

IS THERE A SUCH THING AS A RESUME GAP THAT’S TOO LONG?

While gaps have become more acceptable, there’s still a debate surrounding the length of them. Gaps that are 6 months or less can easily be explained and are typically favored, while gaps that last years can raise red flags. Ultimately, as long as you have a solid reason why you weren’t working during that time, you shouldn’t be critiqued or put through the wringer.

If you had a gap for any reason in the 80’s, 90’s, and early 00’s, you were perceived to have a poor work ethic, deemed as someone who can’t “cut it” in the real world, and as someone who lacks the skills to be successful or “make it”. But all of that is false. You’re still a talented, skilled, top-notch professional even with a gap.

As long as you’re qualified with the necessary skills, have a solid resume that pitches you as a strong candidate, and you are able to speak to your abilities and understand the needs of the company during the interview, your gap, no matter the length, shouldn’t matter.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

HOW TO ADDRESS RESUME GAPS

There are many ways to address gaps in your resume. The key is to be honest, upfront, and open. Don’t try to hide it, lie about it, or ignore it. This will only alarm recruiters and hiring managers even more. Here’s how to list, include, or state your gap on your resume.

1. List it on your resume as if you were listing a job – give yourself a title and include the year(s)

The same way that you would list your job title, company name, city/state, and to and from date for one of your actual jobs is the same way you should list the reason for your gap. By incorporating it into your resume, you’re not leaving the recruiter guessing or creating scenarios about why you were out of a job for months or years.

Your resume should be answering every single question they may have regarding your work history, skills, and experience. The more accurate, targeted, and qualified information you give them, the more interested in you they will become.

Example: Head of Household, Mom of Two | Gates Residence – Chicago, IL (2013-Current)

2. Give a general description of the tasks you were performing

Even though you’re not working, that doesn’t mean you’re at home doing absolutely nothing all day. After you give yourself a title and include the timeframe, list a few things that you are doing or were doing during your gap.

If you were a mom taking care of a 5 person household, talk about your overall duties no matter how boring or cheesy they may sound.

If you are taking time to travel, talk about the trips you planned, the places you’ve seen, how you manage your budget, and the content you create. No one does nothing during a gap – tell recruiters what you did. Be transparent and provide value if you can.

Example:

Head of Household, Mom of Two | Gates Residence – Chicago, IL (2013-Current)

Manage activity, school, and eating schedules for two young girls aged 6 and 9.

Allocate a monthly household budget of $5K for necessities such as groceries, cleaning supplies, clothing, etc.

Oversaw the full renovation and remodeling of kitchen.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Jacob Meade

Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW, ACRW)

Jacob Meade is a resume writer and editor with nearly a decade of experience. His writing method centers on understanding and then expressing each person’s unique work history and strengths toward their career goal. Jacob has enjoyed working with jobseekers of all ages and career levels, finding that a clear and focused resume can help people from any walk of life. He is an Academy Certified Resume Writer (ACRW) with the Resume Writing Academy, and a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) with the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches.

Your resume should focus on your relevant full-time work and outline your recent experience. But if those two things don’t overlap completely, it can produce employment gaps. Breaks in employment are often a red flag for hiring managers but don’t be discouraged. There are many credible reasons for not having worked full-time and just as many viable ways to cite them on your job search documents.

The Gaps to Focus On

When drafting your resume, you should include your months of employment. It provides a clear view of your work history and is often better from an ATS standpoint. You don’t need to worry about explaining any employment gaps that only lasted a few months. Hiring managers understand that there are plenty of instances where a person might have lost their job unexpectedly through no fault of their own (especially in the past couple of years). Only when a gap lasts at least the better part of a year should you start thinking about how to address it on your resume.

Short-Term and Volunteer Work

Perhaps you kept busy during your break in employment by working as a consultant, freelancer, or volunteer. Feel free to develop these engagements no differently than your regular job descriptions on your resume.

Start with the basic details: position title (specifying the level of commitment, such as “part-time”), organization, location, and start and end dates. Then flesh out each description to the extent it has relevance to your target job. The best way to do this is first to brainstorm things you’re generally proud of about the experience, then review each item closely and remove anything that doesn’t speak to your current goals.

For example, if your participation in Big Brothers, Big Sisters gave you a tremendous mentoring experience, but you don’t wish to mentor others in your next job, take out any brainstorming points in that area of the work you did. Also, keep in mind that if you include any volunteering, you’ll need to update your experience section heading from “Professional Experience” or “Work Experience” to something more general like “Relevant Experience” or “Experience Highlights.”

Higher Education Opportunities

If you took time off to get an advanced degree, note that in your resume’s Experience section. Just jot down the dates associated, then a brief line about the experience, for example:

2017 to 2019: Focused on completing an MBA degree

If you have relevant highlights from your degree, don’t include them here. There’s no need to flesh out a full description. Instead, keep those details in your Education section.

Personal Issues and Milestones

Perhaps your employment gap is due to personal reasons, such as travel, starting a family, caring for a sick relative, or overcoming an injury or illness of your own. Know that you’re not required to include personal information on your resume if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. But if you are comfortable, here are a few examples:

  • 2014 to December 2016: Traveled to Italy and Germany
  • Dedicated time to raising three boys
  • Full-time mother focused on starting a family
  • Full-time caregiver for an ailing parent
  • Time away to treat and fully recover from an acute illness

To develop the description further, follow the same two-step process outlined above to arrive at your most relevant highlights. You may be surprised at how strong the resulting points are and how they add value to your resume. Often, personal experiences like these allow you to build outstanding:

  • Cultural or language literacy
  • Perseverance
  • Prioritization skills
  • Efficiency
  • Adaptability
  • Calm in urgent situations
  • Short- and long-term planning skills

Using your personal experiences to showcase these skills, you can turn a liability into an asset and add a new dimension to your overall resume.

What About the Cover Letter?

Only take up the issue of an employment gap on your cover letter if it’s ongoing and you’re trying to return to the workforce. In these cases, mention the gap toward the end of your letter, preferably as part of the closing. This allows you to keep the overall focus of your letter on your relevant qualifications and can actually make an elegant conclusion to your letter by emphasizing your excitement about the opportunity. An example:

My last position was eliminated in May 2020 as a result of Covid-related layoffs. Since that time, I’ve taken the opportunity to focus on raising my two sons and volunteering for a local nonprofit. I’m now thrilled at the chance to return to the workforce as your marketing manager.

Build Your Resume!

Resume Builder offers free, HR-approved resume templates to help you create a professional resume in minutes. Choose from several template options and even pre-populate a resume from your LinkedIn profile. Create an account to save your progress and multiple versions, plus download as a PDF.

CareerBuilder | July 13, 2022

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Don’t be discouraged when searching for work after being out of the game. Discover five ways to positively address resume gaps during your next job interview.

No matter how positive your attitude, unemployment is frustrating, especially when it is longer than you planned. Many people have recently found themselves without a job due to issues relating to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Parents have had to leave their careers to become caregivers and teach their children at home. Others have lost their jobs due to businesses experiencing financial strain as a result of quarantining or continued supply chain issues.

While employers understand this, they want to hear how you made the best of this situation. How do you do this? Find ways to positively address gaps you’ve had in your employment history.

While it may seem difficult, it can be done. With a little creative thinking and positive initiative, you can explain your personal resume gap while also demonstrating to your potential employer that you’re committed to personal and professional growth. Confidently sharing about the gaps in your employment can help you edge out a competitor who isn’t displaying a willingness to talk about their resume gaps.

5 ways to confidently address gaps in your resume

When an employer asks, “What have you been doing since your last job?” your answer should never be “Nothing.” Instead, follow these guidelines for how to confidently address any gaps in your resume.

Address the resume gap in a cover letter

One way to address a gap in your resume is to explain it in your cover letter. There’s not enough space on a resume to clearly detail the facts behind your employment gap. Be upfront and honest about why you were unemployed. Maybe your company laid you off due to the COVID-19 pandemic and you were waiting to receive a call back to work. Perhaps the business you worked for downsized and you happened to be the lucky person who was terminated. Whatever the cause of your resume gap, make sure you are sincere and truthful about the circumstances.

With that being said, some employers don’t read cover letters or they may only scan through them for pertinent information. You’ll want to be ready to give an honest explanation for the gap in your resume during the interview process.

Include the reason for the gap on your resume

When adding your employment history, note the reason for any gaps in your resume as its own job or occupation. If you chose to be a stay-at-home mother while raising your children, list it chronologically in the employment history section. Follow the same format you use for all other work positions but fill it in with the reason for the gap. Follow the example below:

  • Full-time stay-at-home-mom, Tucson, Arizona, 2010 – 2020
  • Stayed at home to raise my two children until they were old enough to attend elementary school
  • Currently looking to re-enter the workforce and once again focus on my career

Change the resume format

Most resumes are laid out in similar formats, beginning with a professional summary, followed by your employment history, skills and abilities section, and educational experience. If you wish to avoid obvious gaps in your work history, consider using a functional resume format or a combination of both a functional and chronological resume.

A functional resume highlights your skills and achievements, making these the focus rather than your work history. You can include sections, such as:

  • Career summary
  • Professional experience
  • Key accomplishments
  • Professional development

A combination of both types of resumes may feature your skills, abilities, and professional achievements at the top of your resume, followed by your work history and experience. Rather than listing your work history in chronological order, you can simply note the positions you held with a brief description of your duties and responsibilities.

Be honest about your gap when asked

Whatever the reason for your resume gap, be honest when asked about it. Employers understand that life happens and you don’t have much control over it at times. Whether you were laid off, terminated, took a sabbatical, stayed home to care for children or an elderly parent, or were unable to work due to the pandemic, it’s always best to be forthright about your particular circumstances.

At this point, you can also share any continuing education classes you took, professional training you participated in, or licenses or certifications you earned. This will show the employer that you took advantage of this time to improve yourself and develop your professional skills.

Mention valuable experience you gained during the resume gap

If you participated in any leadership training, worked a part-time job, or spent time with family, don’t be afraid to mention this in your cover letter, on your resume, or during your interview. Experience can be valuable, and a possible employer may want to see how you used this time to improve your circumstances. Maybe you volunteered at your child’s school, helped out with a community fundraiser, or started a side business. These actions demonstrate how you prioritized taking care of your family or took steps to improve as an individual.

These tips for addressing gaps in your resume can help you get back into the job market. CareerBuilder.com is also a valuable tool for searching for your next position. Upload your resume today and begin looking for that job that will help you reach your professional and personal goals.


Related reading: Tips for crafting the ideal resume

If you’re a marketing professional, take advantage of this cover letter sample for marketing applicants.

Looking to get back into the education field? Review this extensive list of top teacher jobs in the United States.

Discover five ways to keep your job search stress under control.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Searching for a new job can be challenging. Filling out applications, submitting resumes and attending interviews can be a job in itself. Having gaps in your resume may make this process more difficult. Knowing how to address an employment gap on your resume will assist you in finding the job you want.

People take time off work for many reasons, including caring for children, business shutdowns or leaving a toxic work environment. Employment gaps can reflect poorly on the applicant if not explained well. No matter the reason for your break in employment, it is important that you be prepared to address it and put your potential employer at ease.

These eight tips can assist you in minimizing the effect of gaps on your resume:

Make Good Use of Your Time Away Make the most of your time by getting certifications, performing volunteer work related to your field or participating in courses and programs. Attending webinars and job-related conferences can be noted on your resume.

It shows how you used your time away for career or personal development.

  1. Omit the Gap

If you were employed for a few years in your last position and the gap was before that, consider omitting jobs from before that time from your resume altogether. If the gap was five years ago, only list the positions within the last five years. Potential employers don’t expect you to include every single job you have ever worked, especially if you have been a professional in the field for many years.

If you have small gaps in your resume or periods in which you were out of work for a few months within a single calendar year, you can only omit the dates and include the year. If you were unemployed for six months in 2019, for example, list your dates of employment like this:

ACME Widget Company, 2015-2019

Sam’s Glue Factory, 2019-present

Using this format doesn’t show that you were out of work between March 2019 and September 2019.

  1. Use a Different Resume Layout

Many resumes are structured chronologically, creating issues if you have gaps in your employment. Choose a resume template that focuses on your skills and accomplishments instead of your actual dates of work. Other resume formats allow you to list your educational achievements first, saving your work history for last. Focus on your accomplishments at your previous job, your certifications and everything else that makes you stand out as a candidate.

  1. Explain the Gap

Explaining the gap is effective, and hiring managers understand that life happens, and career-changing is normal. There might not always be another job lined up, and there is a gap when this happens. There are several ways you can explain a gap:

– Contract position: this lets the interviewer know that the position was temporary, and this will easily explain a gap between assignments

– Professional development: add in your professional development activities where you would typically add in your position information. Not only does this explain your gap, but it also makes your resume appear more substantial and highlights your professional skills.

  1. Strengthen Your Resume and Cover Letters Using Addendums

Include other forms of evidence that demonstrate your skills if you have gaps on your resume, including a portfolio of your work, writing samples, reference letters or certificates from completed certifications.

A well-put-together resume and portfolio, along with positive references from previous employers and colleagues, will go a long way in helping the interviewer forget any doubts about your employment gap.

  1. Explain Your Employment Gap in Your Cover Letter

Address the issue of an employment gap in the cover letter so that the hiring manager is aware of it before the interview. Give a quick explanation of your gap, but don’t dwell on it. Mention it, move on and get back to talking about your achievements.

  1. Explain the Gap During Your Interview

You may be asked to discuss the gap again during the interview. Determine what you will say beforehand – omit any negative thoughts about the gap, and don’t comment negatively on your former employer.

If you became unemployed due to COVID, focus heavily on your strong performance before the job loss. Most employers will be sensitive to this and often forgive the gap due to a Covid-19 job loss. Be sure to explain this to your potential employer. If you were required to take time off to care for children or an elderly relative, make it clear that you are ready and eager to return to work.

  1. Be the Ideal Candidate

The key to achieving this is to apply for positions you are a perfect fit for. If you have extensive experience in your field, certifications, references and are a good fit for the company’s culture, your potential employer may not even care about your gap. They will likely be so excited to hire you that they will overlook the period that you were unemployed.

If you haven’t connected with an Employment Consultant at Job Skills, NOW is the time to get that one-on-one support you can use as you move through the new way of working. Call Job Skills toll-free at 1-866-592-6278 to connect to one of JS’s experts.

Job Skills has more than 40 online workshops to assist you in your career exploration and job search situation. Register to participate in the online ‘LinkedIn for Job Searching’ workshop on March 9, 10:00 am – 11:00 am. Watch for the other dates and times to register for any of our online workshops, as well as lots of great links and resources to assist you!

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Posted February 15th, 2016

Between the Great Recession and the changing priorities of today’s workforce – gaps in an individual’s employment history or frequent hopping from job to job isn’t seen as the major drawback it was in the past.

It’s important to realize this: You don’t want to go into an interview apologizing for your track record or on the defensive.

That being said, you should be able to justify every part of your employment history. If you have a particularly flawed track record, the best strategy is to formulate a forward-looking resume that indicates the value you are offering likely employers. If you are going with a chronological format, start your resume with a Qualifications Summary section, which describes your essential credentials for the position. This will highlight your strengths.

Tackling employment gaps

Short gaps might not be apparent if you get rid of months from the employment dates on your traditional resume. This only works if you’ve a track record of spending more than just a few years at various employers.

Consider other pursuits you can use to occupy that time period, particularly interests that convey relevant job skills. Volunteer projects, community participation, unique projects, consulting work and continuing education can be used in this manner. If you’re currently unemployed, there’s no time like the present to look for ways to update your skills or volunteer your time.

Finally, if you took an extended period of time off to raise children or care for an ailing loved one – don’t even think about apologizing for not working. When you go into a hiring process, emphasize the selfless and sacrificial nature of your time away from the professional workforce. Also, mention anything you did that could possibly apply to your resume, particularly soft skills. For example, if you spend time navigating the ins-and-outs of medical bills – denote that in your resume.

Explaining a history of job hopping

Gone are the days of walking off the stage with your high school diploma and into a job you’ll have through to retirement. Hiring managers are more willing than ever to dismiss some degree of going from job to job. However, a track record of going from job to job will likely need to be explained.

First off, a resume is technically considered a personal advertising or marketing document. This means you aren’t legally obligated to include every single job you ever worked. If you had a one-month temporary assignment that ended badly – you don’t need to include it. Please note that a work history you fill out as part of the hiring process is a signed legal document.

Furthermore, if you had a few short stints at different companies all doing the same job – consider formatting your resume with various employers listed under a single job title. For example:

Sales Representative

Company A (8/2001 – 1/2002)

Company B (2/2002 – 6/2002)

Company C (6/2002 – 9/2007)

At TempsPlus of Paducah, we are constantly working with our job candidates to maximize their appeal to prospective employers. If you are concerned about any aspect of your resume, feel free to contact us today .

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

A job seeker with a gap in their employment history used to be viewed as unreliable, disloyal, and was labeled a risk. Today, however, there are numerous variables that contribute to an individual being out of the workforce. There are times when we choose to take time off from our career such as raising a family, to care for elderly or sick family members, or we simply have the financial means to stop working for a period of time. Other times the decision is made for us by downsizing, layoffs, and closures.

Regardless of the reason, more and more job seekers are faced with addressing job gaps to potential employers. While it doesn’t reflect as negatively as it once did, you need to be prepared to explain the interruption in your employment.

The most important thing is to be honest about your time off. If you were let go from a position due to the organization reducing the number of employees or because they went out of business, then all you need to do is clarify that to a prospective employer. If you were let go for another reason, such as poor performance, then it gets a bit trickier. Don’t attempt to lie about it because it can come back and bite you. The best thing to do is be truthful and humble. Don’t bad mouth your previous employer. Instead, try to show that you have learned from your past and are ready to reapply yourself.

If you are unemployed and have been consistently seeking a new position you know that it can be a full time job. However, if you can find the time, consider doing some additional training or education. To be able to say to a hiring manager that in addition to pursuing a new position you were also using the time to enhance your industry knowledge and experience by doing x,y, and z can make a big impression. Use this time off to network and stay active in the industry. You may even come across someone who can help you with your job search.

Your cover letter is where you should initially address the gaps that will be found on your resume. You don’t have to go into great detail. Save that for the interview, but state the reason and find something from your time off that you can put a positive spin on (i.e. While I have been out of the workforce for two years caring for my mother, I was able to use that time to reevaluate my professional goals and have determined that my focus lies with… or, after being downsized from ABC Company, I used the time to obtain to obtain additional training in leadership management which I am eager to put to use at your organization.).

Whatever the reason for the gap on your resume it’s important to have a good attitude when talking about it with a potential employer. A negative attitude about a long frustrating job search will get you nowhere, while an upbeat, confident demeanor can set you apart and may go a long way in helping you land your next job.

How to Deal With an Employment Gap on a Resume. Many people have employment gaps on their resumes. Perhaps you went back to school for addition training, took time off to raise a family, or found yourself unemployed for a significant amount of time. A resume with employment gaps has the potential to raise a red flag for employers unless you explain what you did during those periods. List ongoing education, training or professional development in the space you would normally list an employer. Include the name of the institute you attended, the dates of attendance and the degree or certification pursued. Write “stay-at-home parent” if you took time off from work to raise your family, or “caregiver” if you spent a significant amount of time caring for an ailing spouse, parent or family member. Include a brief statement of explanation that demonstrates your compassion and dedication. Example: “I made the decision to take a leave of absence from my career to care for my ailing mother, who was suffering from dementia. She did not fare well in assisted living and I felt a short break in my career was a small price to pay for allowing her to live out her final days at home.

Video advice: How to Address Employment Gaps on Your Resume and In Interviews

Should I address employment gaps on my resume?

How do I fill my unemployment gap on my resume?

Phillip suggests referencing time off on the resume exactly where the gap is chronologically in your listing, or you can place the note at the end of your professional experience. If you have more than two periods of unemployment to answer for, put the reference at the bottom and state both dates in one statement.

How do I explain an ease gap in my resume?

How to Explain the Gap in Your Resume With Ease

  1. Be Honest. Whatever the reason for your time away from work, career coach and author of The Essential HR Handbook Sharon Armstrong says honesty is always the best policy. .
  2. Be Prepared. .
  3. Be Confident.

How long is too long of an employment gap?

If your employment gap was less than three months, there’s no need to explain it on your resume. A gap of three months or less should not raise too many eyebrows because three months is an acceptable timeframe to be job-seeking or taking a vacation between contracts.

List work experience, with the most recent position first (name of facility; dates employed; title of position; and supervisor’s name, address, and telephone number).

The same way you would account for any other gap in employment.

Indicate the month and year that each position began and ended, the name of the employer, the location of the employer, and a simple phrase describing your responsibilities.

Create a second work history section that covers those gaps, labeling it Other Experience.

The work history should include dates employed, job title, job duties, and employer’s name, address, and telephone number.

Video advice: Explain an Employment Gap in a Job Interview

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Gaps in Your Resume: How to Address Them?

  • Post author:adminswipee
  • Post published: July 11, 2022
  • Post category:Resume
  • Post comments:0 Comments

Numerous job placement services form opinions about you based on your resume. Addressing employment gaps in your CV is crucial to maintaining the positive impression you have created. This piece will cover all you need to know about coping with them

What Are Employment Gaps On Resumes?

Employment gaps are intervals in your chosen profession when you do not operate. An employment gap can span from a few months to several years and can be purposeful or unintentional. Employment gaps on a resume might be problematic if you do not adequately explain the cause for your sabbatical and the knowledge you gained during that time.

Take advantage of one of the best job seeking apps to modify your employment gaps!

Grounds For Employment Gaps

  • Time spent on job hunting.
  • Layoffs due to organizational changes.
  • Parenting or caring for a family at home.
  • An extended leave of absence for medical reasons.
  • Investing time in advancing your education.
  • Moving from one geographical area to another.
  • A period of personal development during a gap year.

Resume Explanations For Employment Gaps

Unemployed? Getting ready for work is the first step

How can you replace gaps in your resume’s employment? Try to use your jobless time to prepare for a return to action. Acquiring certifications or continuing education classes, volunteering or working in a non-traditional capacity, and seeking new careers are all ways to do this.

Make sure you include only relevant jobs

Furthermore, you must decide if your resume should include your work gap. It is not necessarily vital to acknowledge every job you have ever held on your resume. In the employment section of your resume, highlight your most up-to-date experiences.

Utilize a resume format that minimizes the gap

Remember that your CV emphasizes your good experiences rather than your competence. Next, you can try to hide work gaps by employing a resume style or structure like the functional resume format. A functional CV emphasizes your talents and accomplishments rather than your experience.

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Provide an explanation for long-term unemployment

If you have a career gap of over a year, it will still be seen on your CV. You may get around this by listing your activities during the interval in your experience section. Nonetheless, you should keep the entry concise so that it does not detract from the person’s more practical qualifications.

Include any relevant experience acquired during the gap

Suppose you can tie your work gap experience to the position you are applying for. In that case, adding more extensive information to your employment gap entry may be advantageous. Include particular instances of everyday tasks and responsibilities that you had throughout your work gap that are related to the duties or obligations of the position you are applying for.

Where Should The Employment Gap Be Explained?

You should know not only how to explain employment shortages but also were to explain them. In general, you should address gaps in your employment in three places: your cover letter, résumé, and during an interview for new job openings if questioned about it.

However, your cover letter is an excellent place to explain substantial gaps in employment since it allows you to go into depth about how you used your time out of labor to prepare to return to work. Explaining work gaps in your cover letter and CV also demonstrates to employment agencies that you are truthful and trustworthy, which may help you stand out from the rest.

Discover your perfect job with the most satisfactory job seeker app !

Don’t be embarrassed about your employment past. It is not inappropriate to take time off. Some job agencies will wish to interview you, but not all. Stand firm in your judgments and choices, convey your talents in a simple resume style and be prepared to answer questions and clarify yourself more during the job interview.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

While employment gaps are common on a resume, there is a trick involved with explaining them to prospective employers. Many times these gaps are planned for, such as the birth of a child or going back to accomplish a degree. Other times the unexpected occurs, from a job layoff to a major illness. Either way, there are blank spaces in your resume that are clearly noticeable. How you explain these holes will affect your future job prospects. Fortunately, this article will help you prepare for your discussions with hiring managers. Here are some commonly asked questions and answers from workers with a gap in their work history.

Should You Mention the Resume Gap?

First, if the gap was several years ago and you’ve been successfully employed since, you probably won’t need to mention it. Keep in mind there is no rule that you have to include all your experience on a resume. This is especially true for workers that have been employed for a decade or longer. In most cases, your early career history isn’t necessary to the current job search if you’re applying for a mid- or later career track. Most recruiters will suggest just keeping the history to the last 15-years or so if you are applying for a management position.

There are several ways to ma ke a more recent gap in your work history more appealing to employers. For example:

  • You can use dates to make the gap stand out less. Try removing the month from the date history and instead just list the year.
  • You can use resume formatting to make the gaps less obvious, like putting the dates of employment in non-bold type.
  • Start your resume with a summary at the top to draw the reviewer’s eye to your accomplishments and skills.
  • Include any experience and skills you gained during the employment gap. Did you volunteer; take a class or a sabbatical? List it on your resume as a valuable skill.

If the gap was recent, the employer or recruiter is certain to notice it and comment on it. In any case, be prepared to explain it clearly and succinctly to the recruiter or hiring manager. What was your rationale for the break? If the break wasn’t voluntary, what happened to put you in that situation? Emphasize the issue has been resolved and you’re ready to return to work.

If you were laid off, it’s a very good idea to provide the potential employer with documentation of your excellent performance before the layoff. A decision to conduct company downsizing is a decision that employees can’t control. It’s important to show you were a solid employee prior to the economic downturn the company faced. Part of an active networking process is to ask for recommendations now before you need them during the job search.

Networking With a Recruiter

The best networking advice we can share is to speak today with a recruiter. These professionals are on the prowl for you; employers hire staffing agencies to find the best talent.

Contact the staffing professionals at Top Stack today if you’re looking for a career shift. We can supplement your professional networking efforts and help you find the perfect fit.

I have been laid off at the same time as I was diagnosed with cancer. Now, after almost a year of battle, I want to update my resume and start looking for a new job. And I want to address the “gap” in my resume and on LinkedIn but I am not sure how. I haven’t been actively searching till now.

How can I show in my resume / LinkedIn what my employment status is without opening up too many questions about my health?

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

6 Answers 6

Just keep it simple:

  • 2020: off work due to a health issue which is now resolved
  • 2018 – 2019: Senior Widget Wrangler, Acme Corporation
  • 2016 – 2018: Widget Wrangler, Acme Corporation

Nobody should ever be asking for details of the health issue, but if someone does you just say “that’s a personal matter, I do not expect it to impact my work going forwards”.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Phillip Kendall’s answer is the correct, here is why.

Unfortunately you have a tricky trade-off. On one hand, you are not required to explain anything and the company can’t really ask (in the US). On the other hand the company is not required to hire you and if there is anything in your resume or the interview they don’t like, they will just move on to the next candidate.

So you need to decide what level of disclosure you are comfortable with and you can practice what you will say if the questions are getting past your comfort zone.

In the US a good phrasing on your resume would be “Medical Leave of Absence, fully cleared to return to work, no future accommodations required or expected”.

These are legally well defined terms that say the following:

  • You had a medical issue as certified by a physician
  • A physician has also certified that you are “cured” and are able to return to work
  • Your medical condition has no further impact on your ability to work, you can be treated as any other “healthy” employee.

If they still ask for more details, it’s really up to you. There is nothing wrong with “I prefer not to discuss this as it’s personal. If there are specific concerns or considerations about the current role, I’m more than happy to address them directly”.

That sentence redirects the inquiry to the potential impact of your health on your expected job performance. This could be questions like “can you lift stuff”, “are you ok with pulling the occasional all-nighter if a project is on fire”, “do you need frequent breaks and/or limit on work times”, etc.

These are GOOD questions and you should encourage or bring them up proactively. Every interviewer will THINK these questions. If they can’t ask, they will just guess and make up their own answer. It’s much better if you actually get them out in the open and answer them truthfully.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

You might be tempted to leave gaps in your career on your resume in the hope that employers won’t notice them. But for many hiring managers and recruiters, a CV that’s full of unexplained breaks or even one significant gap poses a red flag. And it’s likely that they’ll disregard your application straight away, rather than trying to find out.

Firstly, don’t forget that it’s not unusual to have the occasional employment gap. Despite the break, the secret to ensuring you are still an attractive candidate is all about how you initially explain it. Being honest during the hiring process is essential, and this starts with your resume. If you lie or try to cover gaps by extending the months you worked somewhere, then chances are you’ll be found out at the reference check stage. Even if you have nothing to hide, this will make employers suspicious and will put them off.

On the other hand, being honest and having a well-prepared explanation of your break from your career may work in your favour.

Particularly during the last two years where the global pandemic resulted in massive job losses in almost every sector, employers and recruiters are going to be much more understanding about your circumstances if you were let go or made redundant.

How to explain a gap in your resume due to illness

It can be challenging to explain a gap in your employment history due to illness, as it could be a sensitive subject. If your career break was a long time ago, say more than 10 years, it’s probably not worth mentioning. However, if the gap is recent and lengthy, you will have to acknowledge it and explain the situation.

The message you need to get across is that while you had to take time out of work because you were ill, you are now ready and motivated to return to the workforce. Stay focused on the positive side of your recovery, and allow the hiring manager to see your determination and drive when faced with tough times.

How to explain employment gaps due to termination or redundancy

Employers shouldn’t hold it against you for having some time in between jobs if you were made redundant. You will likely need to provide further explanation about the circumstances if you were let go, and even more so if you were fired.

One way to flip this negative into a positive is to highlight what you were doing during the break to stay marketable. For example, did you complete any free or paid training courses or get involved in any volunteer work? Even if you didn’t do something that was linked to your skills or career, perhaps you filled your time with other productive work, such as improving your house or picking up a new hobby. While career-related work is ideal, any productive time should show the hiring manager that you made the most of any time off, which demonstrates to them that you have not just been sitting around doing nothing.

How to explain employment history gaps due to travelling

If the gap you have to explain is due to a break you took to go travelling, it should be easy for you to spin this positively. Many employers will appreciate the fact that you’ve travelled before you apply for a role in their organisation. It shows a sense of independence, personal development and cultural awareness, plus new perspectives that you can apply to the role, so focus on these benefits.

How to explain resume gaps due to caring for your family

Many people take time out of their career to take care of a relative or raise their children, so there is no need to cover this up.

However, you should mention that your children are now in full-time education or childcare, or that you no longer have full-time care commitments and ready to return to your career.

Addressing your employment gaps during an interview

A carefully worded and honest explanation of employment gaps in a resume should be enough to help you through to the interview stage, provided the rest of your cover letter and CV impress the reader. Keep in mind, however, that you may be asked to verbally address the gap during the interview stage as well.

Your interviewer will likely look for further detail to help them get a better idea of the time you spent away from work. Regardless of your exact situation, they will essentially want to know whether the time was productive in some shape or form – and it’s your opportunity to explain it adequately to provide your potential future employer with reassurance.

For an employer, it’s more about what that gap says about your character and how you deal with difficult situations such as illness or redundancy, or downtime such as travel. Almost everyone’s career path involves the occasional difficulties, challenges and slow periods, so showing how you dealt with these circumstances during those employment gaps can, in fact, work in your favour and help secure your a new job.

Read more handy tips and key advice on CVs and cover letters here.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Having a gap in employment on your resume used to be a red flag to hiring managers. But in today’s job market, where we’re no strangers to freelance work, layoffs, career changers, personal sabbaticals, or even pandemics, a seamless work history is no longer necessarily the norm. Hiring managers understand that even the best candidates might have small gaps on their resume, and if they bring right skills and experience to the table, it’s not anything to be concerned about.

The key lies in how you present yourself. Many candidates feel the need to immediately address the gap – on the resume or the cover letter, and again in the interview, but this can often do more harm than good. The goal of the resume is to paint you in a positive light, by drawing attention away from any potentially negative aspects, and instead focus on the value and qualifications you bring to the table.

Whether it’s a brief period of unemployment between jobs, an extended leave, or your entire industry is upended by a once-in-a-lifetime event (hopefully not), assess whether the gap needs to be addressed, and if so, consider the best tactic for doing so.

Gaps for Personal Reasons (Family, Illness, Life Transition)

The standard for resumes in the US is to not disclose personal details like marital status, age, or family demographics. There are different rules for CVs that are used in the UK, EU, Australia, and other countries, but in the US the potential for discrimination suggests avoiding these altogether.

If you have a large gap of several years in which you were dealing with these personal issues, consider any volunteer work you were doing at this time. If you were involved with school, church, or a local organization, you can have a section on your resume entitled “Community Service” or “Community Affiliations” and include skills and accomplishments that are transferable to your current career target. For example, if you are in accounting, and helped with a Boy Scout or Girl Scout fundraiser or banking relations for your troop, that would be great to mention.

Consider online training, courses, and certifications during this time. You can begin your resume, rather than with your last job from several years ago, with a “Professional Development” section where you can list seminars or courses you took between jobs. Doing this turns a possible negative career gap into an asset that can propel you ahead of other candidates that do not have a particular degree or license. There are an enormous amount of credited, online universities, and professional licensing organizations that can keep you current on your industry and increase your authority on a particular subject or skill.

In some cases, none of the above apply and that doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. Think about how you want to tell your story, and be prepared to address it in the interview process. Talking about the time you spent caring for a loved one or raising a family might give you common ground with your interviewer that helps you establish a positive rapport. And then bring it back to why you’re qualified for the job.

Involuntary Gaps (Layoffs, Unemployment, Downturn Economy)

Even the best candidates experience periods of unemployment, layoffs, or organizational changes that result in a reduction or elimination of their roles. Hiring managers understand that job loss is not always reflective of performance, and often the circumstances of corporate decisions are beyond a candidate’s control.

And when confronted with unexpected job loss, the lack of preparation for starting a job search often keeps people unemployed for longer than intended. Depending upon your level, specialty, and geography, finding a new job can take weeks or months. So how do you address this on a resume?

First, avoid detailing the circumstances of your departure in the resume or cover letter. And never talk negatively about a former employer in a job interview – it distracts from your positive qualities and comes off as unprofessional. But do be honest about the situation if you feel comfortable doing so – you can reveal that your unemployment was due to circumstances outside of your control, and then immediately link the conversation back to what you learned in your last role and how it relates to the position at hand.

“I really enjoyed working for the company, so it was unfortunately to cut ties. But I was happy to have worked with such a great team and produce work that was highly visible throughout the organization.”

Can a Functional Resume Conceal Employment Gaps?

Hiring managers generally dislike functional resumes because they lack context. A resume should tell a story, and a functional format often leaves out key details that really provide a full picture of the candidate and their qualifications.

If dates are a concern, try using a hybrid or chronological format, that focuses not only on employment dates but emphasizes skills and accomplishments. If you have several roles from a while ago that employers would find ideal, consider starting your resume with a section entitled something like “Relevant Career Experience” and listing these jobs on page one, then have a different section under this entitled “Current Career Experience” or “Additional Career Experience” and listing your most current jobs.

Another trick to minimize gaps is to use years of employments instead of months.

How to List Freelance or Contract Positions

It is common in many creative industries like design, advertising, fashion, film, and music to have a career, and resume, that consists of short-term contract or project-based work. Regardless of industry, you can simplify a history like this by listing your title first, then combining several companies together. For example, if you were a marketing director for multiple short-term projects:

Marketing Director
Company A July 2019 – Dec 2019
Company B April 2020 – July 2020
Company C Jan 2021 – April 2021

Everyone has challenges and highlights throughout their career that may impact the format their resume takes. A professionally created resume reduces the problematic areas while emphasizing your top selling points. Not all gaps on a resume can be removed, covered up, or minimized – but the key is to maintain focus on the most relevant and valuable aspects of your resume, and your personal brand.

What Next?

As former hiring managers and resume pros, we specialize in working with candidates who have non-traditional backgrounds, and we have the expertise to create a resume that will put your best foot forward. Contact us to create a package that works for you.

News/Updates

Posted December 4th, 2017

Many people take some time away from their careers, whether it’s for continuing education, health reasons or because one job didn’t work out and the next one didn’t start right away.

Regardless of the reason, you must have an explanation for any gaps in your work history to ease concerns about your ability to hold down a job and work hard (since it takes hard work to land a job).

Here are a few ways you can address gaps in your resume when you apply to the next job opportunity.

Don’t mention it

If a gap in your work history happened 15 years ago, it probably doesn’t even bear mentioning. Actually, you don’t even have to include every job you ever held on your resume, particularly if you have many years of experience in your field. You can restrict your work history to around 15 years when looking for a managerial position and 10 years when seeking other positions.

Omit months for small gaps

If your employment gap only lasted a short time, only list the years worked for each employer.

Of course, this approach has its issues. First, it’s a bit of a dubious omission, and an employer might ask you if intentionally left off the months to hide something. If you come clean about the employment gap, it won’t put you in the best light. If you don’t come clean and the gap is somehow exposed, you’re sunk.

Therefore, it’s best to use this approach if you have a long work history – one that spans several decades. Your work history should be so long that keeping track of the start and end months seems unnecessary.

Emphasize accomplishments, not times

You can also format your resume to minimize the importance of gaps in your work history. One way to do that is to feature a Career Summary section and an Accomplishments section at the top of the document.

After using these sections to highlight what you have achieved, you can then include an Employment History section where the dates are listed.

Include experience gained during gap

If you were out of work for longer than three months and you don’t have more than 20 years of experience under your belt, the best policy is just to come clean and confront the gap. However, that doesn’t mean throwing up your hands and saying, “My work history is what it is.”

Be sure to list any experience you might have gained during your time out of the workforce. These should be experiences or achievements that can translate into job skills. For instance, if you left to start a family, you could mention you managed medical bills, developed child care techniques, coordinated schedules or researched daycare options.

As a top staffing agency in Tulsa, OK, we regularly help professionals who have put their careers on hold. If you are currently looking to reenter the workforce after an extended break, please contact us today.

How to Address Employment Gaps in your Resume

For the first time in a long time, the United States unemployment rate is back on track. At 5.5%, this rate means that more people are getting jobs and more companies are hiring. For many, this is the opportune time to get back to the job search, perhaps after an extended period of not working. There are a variety of reasons to take a leave from the work force, whether you get laid off or leave to serve in the military, have children, deal with family complications, or even to take the time to travel. The questions is: what are some of the best practices to address employment gaps in your resume?

Have Confidence Moving Forward

First of all, while you may minimize the attention paid to the gaps, there is no reason to feel ashamed or as though these gaps must be masked.

Be open in sharing your employment gap. Think about what you did during your time off and frame it to show that while you were not working in a traditional sense, you have improved from the experience. For example, did you do any job training? Have you taken any professional development classes? Did you do any volunteering during your leave? Take time to reflect on the skills and know-how you acquired and frame that into your resume or cover letter.

Be Honest

After looking through countless resumes, recruiters or hiring managers are able to identify when something seems a little fishy. Many sources will tell you of strategic ways to hide your employment history by taking out the months to mask the duration of your unemployment. This is not the case. In fact, a hiring manager will mostly likely be less inclined to move forward with a candidate who appears to be misleading.

The important thing to remember in this is that as you move forward in the applicant process, you will be compelled to fully disclose your work history. Don’t back yourself into a corner where you appear deceptive. Be honest throughout the process.

Show Your Work

Perhaps during your gaps, you took on some temporary jobs, whether you were employed by another or by yourself. Try grouping these together, where logical. This will show that you remained active during a period of unsteady employment. Grouping will also help your skills and assets to be more visible than the job itself. For example, if you worked doing freelance writing while in between jobs, make that a header and list your achievements in that position, rather than listing the companies or organizations for whom you wrote. When it comes down to it, the desirable characteristics in an employee are not shown by where they worked, but by their character, work ethic, and skills.

If you did a variety of jobs, classes, or projects during your unemployment, try making a section header and listing some of those accomplishments. The self- motivation needed for this type of work can reveal a lot about your work habits, which can be desirable. For example:

Maternity Leave, June 2015 – Present

  • Completed online Managerial Leadership Certificate at University of Texas McCombs School of Business during off hours
  • Developed procedures for on-boarding new volunteers at local youth sports organization

Emphasize Skills Over Chronology

In the same vein, emphasize your skills over your employment history. There are several ways to do this. The first is to be sure the bulleted points in your resume stand out and work for you. This means that they should not merely be listing the tasks of your job, but should instead show your specific accomplishments while in a position. Accomplishments are best displayed when they are quantified to prove your skill or expertise in a given area.

Another way to emphasize your skills in your resume is to designate a skills section. A skills section can take the form of a list and should include skills applicable to the position for which you are applying. When listing skills, be sure to include both the full name of the skill and its abbreviated form so it is sure to register in Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS.

Look carefully at the job description to find resume keywords that should be mimicked in your resume. For example, if something like financial modelling is listed several times throughout the job description, be sure to highlight your experiences and successes with it — whether while in a steady job or during your employment gap. Using a tool like Jobscan.co makes it easy to see what those keywords are and maximize their usage. Again, your skills and character are important to recruiters.

Be Positive And Professional

Overall, remember that life happens. A gap in employment does not mean you are not a desirable candidate. Hiring managers ultimately want a good person, one whom they can trust. Focus on the positive and recognize the assets you can bring to a company. Take initiative and always act professionally. Don’t rule yourself out with your own attitude.

Related Stories:

Here’s how to avoid putting a negative spin on your work glitches and how to stop hiring managers from wondering what you really did with your time.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your ResumeYou’re a sales manager. Your sales have dropped 5 percent over the past 18 months. That’s obviously a negative fact that will come up in an interview. How do you handle it on your resume or in an interview ?

How about this: Instead of losing 5 percent in sales, you maintained 95 percent of sales in a difficult market.

That’s only one example of how job seekers should tackle head-on the negatives on their resumes. Nobody wants to hire a loser. Fortunately, there are plenty of legitimate ways to spin negatives into positives.

“There’s no escaping the fact that an HR resume reviewer or an interviewer will first wonder if you were the problem that produced a negative situation,” said Sandra E. Lamb, career and lifestyle expert and author of ” How to Write It.”

“It’s having that glass-half-full mentality when you go to writing your resume” that will spell the difference between whether you manage to get an interview, she said.

To keep job seekers from falling into the trap of seeing the glass as half-empty, we talked to hiring professionals about some of the negative things hiring managers find on resumes and how job seekers could turn them into positives. Most of them involve how you spent your time between jobs.

Employment gaps

One of the most common negatives professionals must overcome is gaps in employment, particularly as the lingering recession leaves so many unemployed or semi-employed.

Lamb said that there are two steps in handling resume gaps. First, include any volunteer work or work done for the community. Such things are “obviously great experience,” she said, and also entail the same skill sets you used in business.

Second, avoid a strictly chronological resume and instead switch to a hybrid that emphasizes your skills/job functions at the top.

“If you’ve got serious gaps [in your work history], you obviously want to use something in the functional area,” Lamb said.

In a hybrid resume format, the top passage – the functional part – lists your skills and accomplishments. The next section places those accomplishments into context in a chronological section of job descriptions.

Sabbaticals

Were you really “on a sabbatical,” as your resume says, or are you using that term to cover up negative aspects of your work history? Even if you were on sabbatical, you might want to find another way to account for your time, said Greg Bennett, global practice director with The Mergis Group, a recruiting firm. Bennett has seen the word used as a cover many times.

“It still scares me,” he said.

When Bennett asked one man about a sabbatical listed on his resume, the job seeker explained that “he’d worked really hard over the last three years (the first job he’d gotten since college) and that he took a year off to ‛recharge,’” Bennett said. “When I asked if that was going to be his pattern his answer was, honestly, ‛Pretty much!’”

Other instances he’s seen candidates use the term “sabbatical” include one where an applicant finally admitted that it was actually gaps between jobs from which she’d been fired. “It takes a while to get another job after getting fired,” Bennett quoted her as saying. Another multiyear sabbatical turned out to be a prison term after a stickup.

“He hemmed and hawed and finally said that he was in prison for a stickup but got out early on good behavior and that the anger-management classes in prison had really helped,” he said.

Is that successful spinning of negative material? No, it’s just plain old lying. The term sabbatical should never have been used to cover up employment gaps. If you’ve been out of work, see the section above that addresses work-history gaps.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

A gap in a candidate’s MBA resume always gives me pause.

When I was Associate Director of Admissions at UCLA Anderson, my team and I often probed into these breaks in employment in order to discern the context behind this gap, and figure out what the applicant did during this time period. Whether an unattributed gap in your resume prompts admissions officers to chase down the truth or speculate in the absence of information, it creates an awkward situation for everyone and can put you on the defensive.

As an expert coach with Fortuna Admissions, I always advise candidates with this concern not to hide or gloss over it. Silence is not a strategy. Hoping your admissions reviewer just won’t notice rarely works and won’t win you any favors. As professionals who are practiced at both incisively assessing the whole picture about a candidate while simultaneously scrutinizing the details in your application, they will instinctively check the chronology of your accomplishments and how it matches what’s on your resume and application form.

5 TOP TIPS: ADDRESSING A GAP IN YOUR RESUME

1. Don’t inspire their speculation.

The absence of clear information creates speculation at best and assumption at worst – about the reason itself, but also about your motivations for omitting it. Don’t leave it to the admissions committee to draw their own conclusions nor prompt them to question your motives. You also don’t want to give the impression you drifted around aimlessly during that time.

2. Be sincere and straightforward.

Maybe you took time off to start an entrepreneurial venture, initiated a career switch or got laid off. Or maybe illness or other personal circumstances were to blame. Whatever the reason, what’s best is to provide a straightforward explanation versus an excuse. Do this by giving the admissions committee an appropriate context as to why the pause between jobs and what you were doing during that time. You want them to assess your candidacy from a place of understanding as they review your entire application. Express honesty and reflection, with an awareness that your reasoning may alleviate any concerns.

3. Convey Lessons Learned.

Speaking of being reflective, this can be a point in your favor. Articulate not just the circumstances surrounding any employment gap, but what you learned from the experience. For example, if you were laid off, perhaps the unexpected break gave you an opportunity for valuable introspection instead of rushing into another job that may or may not be a good fit. If you took the time to reassess your career evolution, next steps, and the kind of impact you wanted your next position to have on your career, it can suggest both clarity of purpose and maturity.

4. Use the Optional Essay to Your Advantage.

The optional essay is an excellent place to proactively address any gaps in your employment from a place of reflective context. Since most schools have limited space for the optional essay, keep it concise and straightforward rather than going into exhaustive detail. Did you spend this time in other meaningful activities, such as studying for the CFA exam or conducting informational interviews with individuals in a role you aspire for? Perhaps you took a gap year immediately after undergraduate studies to volunteer abroad, imparting renewed purpose and ambition, which in turn can provide great insight into your personal development and motivations.

5. Don’t Overthink It.

It’s common to feel anxiety over how a school will perceive an employment gap if you weren’t productively employed every month since graduation. While the broader panorama of your career evolution is certainly of interest, the last few years of your work history will likely receive the most scrutiny for insights on your accomplishments, leadership potential, and readiness for business school.

Finally, keep in mind that the admissions committee will take a holistic view of your profile and narrative, as well as your evolution over time. How you choose to frame your challenges and upsets as opportunities and learning lessons can make all the difference.

For more on how to address gaps in your MBA resume, view my 7-minute video strategy session and check out this related article by Fortuna’s Jody Keating, How to Craft a Stand-out MBA Resume.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Fortuna Admissions Expert Coach Jessica Chung is former UCLA Anderson Associate Director of Admissions. In addition to evaluating and interviewing thousands of applications for Anderson’s full-time MBA program, Jessica managed the program’s global recruiting and admit events, advised on fellowship decisions, and collaborated on strategic projects alongside the school’s senior leadership team. Other recent features by Jessica include, Your MBA Recommender Strategy Starts Now.

For more advice and a personal, candid assessment of your chances, you can sign up now for a free consultation.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

We know you have good reason for that space on your resume; took a year off to travel the world, devoted yourself daytime to the care of a family member, or took a career-break to raise your family. Whatever the explanation, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that it comes across in the most positive light possible to potential employers, both on your resume and once you land that interview.

Amend your Resume
Some people leave unexplained career gaps on their resume in the hopes of clarifying them during an interview but this is not advisable because the gaps themselves, or what they imply, may be seen as cause enough to pass you over. If it makes sense, list the gap in your employment history. For instance, if you did any freelance or temporary work during that time, create an entry for it and be sure to focus on your impact rather than your responsibilities. If you have a few career gaps or one very long one, consider restructuring your resume to be a hybrid resume, rather than a traditional chronological resume. Most importantly, if you spent your time gaining new qualifications or certifications be sure to include them.

Stay Positive
Don’t be afraid to mention why you left a job voluntarily. Likewise, don’t hesitate to share that you were let go from a job; remember we’re coming out of a historic recession! When sharing anything about former jobs and employers remember to always stay positive about the situation.

Emphasize the Good
As you already know, it’s very possible to gain solid experience in non-traditional settings. Let your “time off” work to your advantage. When explaining your career gap in an interview, think about how to communicate the experiences you had during that time in a way that highlights the skills you learned rather than the basics of how you spent your time. Raised a family? You’re a master at organization. Traveled the world? You easily adapt to unknown or changing situations.

Learn a New Skill
If you’re currently experiencing a career gap, or are anticipating one, it’s a great time to refresh your knowledge or learn a new skill. Consider both traditional and nontraditional learning environments. Community colleges offer continuing education courses and certifications but the rise of online learning communities and coding bootcamps offer alternatives that are often more time-convenient than more conventional options.

Be Honest
Once you get the interview, this is really the most important action you can take when explaining your gap in employment. Jobs come and go but your reputation for being truthful will last. Employers will likely find your candor about the situation refreshing.

Answering questions about a period of unemployment can be daunting but remember that career gaps are not unusual. Your confidence and preparation will serve to help you address the circumstance with professionalism.

Like millions of workers, your resume may have employment gaps due to the coronavirus pandemic. If so, a hiring manager may be less inclined to consider you for an interview. Knowing how to address these gaps can make a difference in helping you get back to work faster. These 6 methods can help you address resume gaps and land a great job.

Six Methods for Discussing Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Explain How You Spent Your Time Unemployed

Share the ways you invested your time preparing to return to the workforce. Perhaps you earned an industry certification, participated in continuing education, were active in a professional association, or spent time doing volunteer or contract work. Demonstrate that you gained positive experiences that can benefit your career.

Decide Which Jobs to List

If your employment gap occurred early in your career, you might not need to include it on your resume. This is especially true if you have multiple years of experience. Include only your most recent and relevant work history in the employment section of your resume. If this includes your employment gap, you can discuss it in your cover letter and interview.

Include Your Start and End Years

If your employment gap occurred over a few months, and you worked at your jobs for several years, you can leave out the month from each job’s start and end date. Simply include the year each job began and ended. For instance, if you were employed from June 2016 through March 2019 and August 2019 to February 2021, list your employment dates as 2016 to 2019 and 2019 to 2021.

Choose an Appropriate Resume Style

A functional resume places more emphasis on your skills and achievements than your experience. Include sections such as a career summary statement and key accomplishments to focus on your positive experiences. List your employment section near the end of your resume.

Mention the Reason for an Extended Employment Gap

If your employment gap was longer than a year, briefly share what you were doing during this time as if it were a job. For instance, if you were a stay-at-home parent until your child entered school, you could list “Full-time parent, Kansas City, MO, 2009-2012. Took time away from professional career to raise a child and manage the household.”

Share the Experience Gained

Relate the experience you gained during your employment gap to the role you are applying for. Give examples of daily activities and responsibilities you had that relate to the duties or responsibilities of the position.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

I get a lot of questions about what to do with a gap in employment history. The good news is that these are no longer the kiss of death they were reputed to be years ago, especially with COVID wreaking havoc with the job market.

That said, there are some better ways to address the gap to ensure that you aren’t eliminated from the running even before an interview.

  1. If you have been out of work for less than a year, you can list your employment dates just as years. For example:
    Technical Writer, Ben’s Writing Services, Denver, CO 2015-2020
  2. If your absence was for personal reasons, like caring for a loved one, include any unpaid work you did during that time—anything from helping at your kids’ school to leading an eldercare square dancing class. And don’t forget things that look unrelated, like fostering animals for your local shelter or organizing neighborhood social events! It’s all stuff you have done, so include it. I like to make it look the same as the paid work:
    Volunteer, neighborhood social group 2020-present
    * Co-plan monthly block gatherings, with attendance of upwards of 20
    * Ensure social distancing practices and the wearing of masks from all participants
    * Etc.
    Don’t forget to add any classes you’ve taken, too!
  3. Choose your language on your cover letter carefully. It can be easy to turn a leave of absence (voluntary or not) into an apology in your cover letter. Make sure you’re focused on the positive: “I was able to step away from paid work while my family relocated to the Chicago area, and now I am eager to return to work,” rather than, “While I have been out of paid for several months….”
  4. Lead with a summary. The very top of your resume, under your contact info, is prime real estate. If you use it to show off your highlights, skills, accomplishments, applicable licenses, and fascinating talking points, employers will likely be less concerned about what looks like a gap.
  5. Title the section “Experience Highlights” or “Selected Relevant Experience” and remove mention of some smaller, sorter job experiences. This implies that you are cherry-picking the very best stuff for them to read, so they aren’t wasting time on the less important stuff.

Finally, relax a little. Many people have solid, packed chronologies on their resumes, but many don’t. It doesn’t make you look suspect to an employer unless there is something else going on that can’t be explained, like serial short-term jobs that weren’t supposed to be short-term. (And in that case, find yourself a career counselor to work with!)

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Related

  • Job Interviews & How to Explain a Career Break
  • How to Fill Out an Application When Not Working for 10 Years
  • How to Explain Leaving a Hostile Work Environment on a Resume
  • How to Address Unemployment in a Cover Letter
  • How to Hide Job-Hopper Issues on a Resume

Stay-at-home parents returning to work sometimes worry about the gap in resume due to family. The decision to assume your parental responsibilities on a full-time basis is an honorable choice for working parents who decide family is a priority. However, make it clear that your decision was your own and not something you decided to do because other options didn’t work out. Also, stress that you maintained your professional skills and qualifications throughout your periods of unemployment.

Prepare a Functional Resume

Construct a functional resume format that focuses more on your professional competencies, rather than a chronological resume that emphasizes the gap in resume due to family. A functional resume contains a list of your accomplishments and capabilities, then it lists your employers and job positions in a section titled “Career Progression.” Functional resumes give job seekers more flexibility, especially if they have employment gaps or a lengthy work history that wouldn’t give a good impression if presented in a chronological format.

Volunteer Work Counts

Create a resume section for volunteer work and describe duties and tasks that helped you maintain your skill set during the time you weren’t in the workforce. List your volunteer positions according to the company’s name and location, your position and the dates of your volunteer work. Be specific about your duties and construct descriptions similar to regular job descriptions. For example, instead of saying, “Helped out on Monday and Thursday afternoons with administrative tasks for fundraising events,” write, “Managed fundraising events calendar; contracted venues and catering and supervised volunteer recruitment.”

The Choice to be a Stay-at-Home Parent

Review the application carefully if you’re applying online. Determine if it requires that you explain any periods of unemployment. If so, calculate the dates you were out of the workforce and put complete information on the online application. When asked to provide the reason for unemployment, feel free to explain that you were a stay-at-home parent. If there is limited space, simply insert the word “Resigned.” In this case, use your cover letter to explain the reason you left the workforce. Always emphasize that the decision to leave the workforce was on your terms; don’t combine reasons by saying, “Company was closing and I decided to become a stay-at-home parent.” Describe your decision to stay at home as your first choice and the only reason you decided to leave the workforce.

Engage with a Cover Letter

Compose a standard cover letter that contains an introduction, body and closing. In your introduction, briefly state your qualifications and your interest in learning more about working for the organization. Compel the reader to continue perusing your cover letter and resume. For example, you could write, “I’m very interested in learning more about the event planning position with your foundation. My background spans 15-plus years in charitable events management and fundraising activities, including several events where I raised funds in the high six-figure range. My resume is attached for your review.”

Address your employment gaps in your cover letter briefly by stating, “I chose to be a stay-at-home parent until my children were in middle school. Now that they’ve reached that milestone, I’m ready to re-enter the workforce to resume my professional and career goals.” Don’t leave the reader to wonder why you were absent from the workforce.

Focus on the Positive

Employers are far more concerned that you maintained your skill set during the time you were unemployed. Address any gap in resume due to family, it’s essential that you include all of the activities in which you participated during the time you were a stay-at-home parent that involved the use of your professional capabilities. Employment website Monster suggests activities such as volunteer work, continuing education and professional memberships. You ma also have completed freelance projects or work done as a self-employed individual.

As advised on the employment website Indeed, present your work record honestly while emphasizing your eagerness to return to the professional world. By being forthcoming, you can stand out among job candidates and project confidence about future goals.

Posted August 25th, 2015

Since the recession, employers have understood that even the most qualified candidates may have gaps in their work histories. Those times can seem like gaping holes, but there are ways to explain them legitimately in an interview.

Be ready to explain it.

It’s up to you as a candidate to be prepared for when a potential employer asks about it. They want to know why you have a period of non-work time on your resume between assignments, and you need to have a valid reason ready. You may have lost your job due to downsizing, an assignment may have ended early, you had to take care of a sick family member, you took time off to travel…no matter the explanation, don’t try to hide it, even if it’s negative. Your future employer will see that you acknowledged it honestly and didn’t try to dodge the fact that it happened and appreciate your forthrightness. P.S. Don’t just blame the economy. Be specific and…

Keep it positive.

You may have left because you couldn’t stand your employer/the company policies. Again, without attempting to hide or fabricate, you could say something such as, “I realized I could better use my skills elsewhere, so I left to find a position where I could do that at a company more like yours.” Keep the focus on what you did during your time away from work–perhaps you volunteered, learned a new marketable skill, or the like. And never lie. Employers want to hear that you did more during your gap than simply look for other work.

Attend to details.

If you lost your last job through no fault of your own, make sure you have terrific references from your previous employer. Talk about what you did at your last job that made you a great employee and how you can use those skills at this job. You may also want to consider a resume that’s not chronological but more skills-based. Some employers do see this as a red flag for recurring unemployment, so you may also want to consider listing your positions in terms of years (e.g., “Sales Manager at X Company, 2009 – 2011”) at the bottom.

A gap in a resume doesn’t have to look bad if you know how to make yourself look good. Use your time in between jobs well and show an employer that time away from work was used productively. For job opportunities in Akron, visit PrideStaff.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

If you’re among the business school candidates concerned about a gap in your resume, don’t try to hide it. The first thing to know is that staying mum isn’t a strategy, and hoping your admissions reviewer isn’t going to notice won’t do anything to win their favor (it’s the opposite, really).

That’s because admissions committee members are experts at both assessing the whole picture about a candidate while at the same time, scrutinizing the details of an application. They’re instinctively checking the chronology of what you’ve done and how it matches what’s on your resume and application form.

As an expert coach at Fortuna Admissions and former UCLA Anderson Associate Director of Admissions, a break in a candidate’s resume always gives me pause. When I was at Anderson, we oftentimes probed into these gaps in employment, trying to piece together what the candidate did during that time period. It can be an awkward situation for everyone: admissions must chase down the information, and you’re put on the defensive.

Here are my top five tips for addressing a gap in your resume or a period of unemployment:

Don’t leave them guessing.

The absence of clear information always creates speculation – both about the reason itself and your motivations for omitting it. The admissions committee can be very creative in coming up with their own conclusions or question your motives. There are plenty of reasons you don’t want to leave this to their imagination, nor do you want to give the impression you drifted around aimlessly during that time.

Be straightforward and sincere.

Maybe you were laid off, initiated a career switch, or took time off to start an entrepreneurial venture. Or maybe personal circumstances or illness were to blame. Whatever the reason, you want to offer an explanation, and not an excuse. Provide the admissions committee appropriate context as to why you have that gap and what you were doing during that time. As they review your entire application, you want them to assess your candidacy from a place of understanding. Convey that you’re honest and reflective, with an awareness that your reasoning may alleviate any concerns.

Share lessons learned.

Speaking of being reflective, your ability to be introspective can be a point in your favor. This means being able to articulate not just the circumstances surrounding any employment gap, but what you learned from the experience. If you were laid off, for example, maybe the unexpected break afforded the opportunity for valuable contemplation instead of instinctively rushing into the next job, which may or may not have been a good fit. Perhaps you took the time to think deeply about what you wanted to do next and what kind of impact you wanted this to have in your career, which also shows maturity and clarity of purpose.

Take advantage of the optional essay.

The optional essay is a great place to proactively address any gaps in your employment from a place of reflective context. It doesn’t have to be super long, and you don’t have to go into exhaustive detail (nor should you). Did you fill your time in other meaningful ways, such as volunteer work or studying for an exam? Sometimes a gap year in your undergraduate studies I which you used this time doing something with purpose can fill an individual with renewed ambition and purpose upon returning to school, which can provide great insight into your motivations and personal development.

Don’t overthink it.

Candidates can get very stressed about how it will look to a school if they weren’t productively employed every month since graduating from university. While the broader panorama is of interest, it’s the last few years of your career history that are subjected to the most scrutiny in terms of where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished. You want to demonstrate career progression and a track-record of achievement, especially over the last year or two, so if you had a gap several years before during the early stages of your career, the admissions committee will be more understanding.

Remember, the admissions committee is looking at the holistic picture of your profile and perspective – considering how you’ve evolved over time. How you choose to frame your upsets and challenges as insights and opportunities can make a world of difference.

For more advice about how to address gaps in your MBA resume, view my 7-minute video strategy session with Fortuna Director, Caroline Diarte Edwards.

Jessica ChungHow to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume is an expert coach at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Associate Director of Admissions at UCLA Anderson. Fortuna is composed of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 12 of the top 15 business schools.

How to Explain and List Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Are you worried about employment gaps in your work history? Not everyone has a picture-perfect career history they can proudly show off. Whether due to personal and family reasons or an unstable economy, employment gaps happen – and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re struggling with gaps in your work history, try using these strategies to put a positive spin on your resume.

What are employment gaps?

Employment gaps are those parts of your work history during which you had not been formally employed. They can occur voluntarily or involuntarily and can last anywhere from several months to many years. If not explained, employment gaps can cause concern for the employer regarding your job performance and stability. Thus, it’s crucial to learn how to put a better spin on them and put the employer’s mind at ease.

Tips on how to explain a lengthy employment gap

Tip #1. Be honest

Seasoned hiring managers know that employment gaps happen. Remember that they must’ve liked your resume if they’ve invited you to the interview. So be honest and upfront when explaining your employment gaps. It’s unlikely that you would ruin your chances by explaining what happened. By lying, however, you’re most definitely going to lose your shot at the job.

Tip #2. Be prepared

If you chose to take a break – whether to deal with personal issues or care for a family member, prepare an answer in advance. You should make it clear that whatever challenge caused you to take time off has since been resolved, and you are ready for a long-term commitment to the new job. If you were laid off, it’s best to prepare an answer that focuses on the positives. That is, explain the circumstances and highlight what the experience taught you.

Tip #3. Be confident

A hiring manager cares about your value as an employee and the benefits you can bring to the company more than minor employment gaps. Be confident in your value and your skills. If you have gained any useful experience during your employment gap, mention it. Don’t hedge – be direct and concise in your explanation and shift the focus on the positives as soon as you can.

Tip #4. Be strategic

Just because you weren’t employed doesn’t mean you didn’t do anything. If you have a longer employment gap that you’d rather explain straight away, don’t shy away from a formal explanation. Sure, you can say you were “on maternal leave.” Or, you can make the gap work to your advantage. After all, saying you “managed the family agenda, handled bookkeeping, and attended to medical concerns” has a much nicer ring to it.

How to de-emphasize employment gaps on a resume

List years instead of months

For example, writing 2013-2015 rather than December 2013 – January 2015 is an effective way to cover up shorter employment gaps. By shorter, we mean 2-10 months. So if you need to cover a 6-month employment gap, you can put your employment dates as 2013-2015 and the next as 2015-2019, omitting that you were not working from February to September 2015. However, this method won’t work for gaps that are longer than a year or if you have too many of them. Remember that employers might ask you for the exact dates on the job application or during an interview. As always, be ready to answer their questions truthfully and professionally.

Consider using a different resume format

If your employment gaps overshadow your skills and experience, it might be best to use a different resume format instead. A functional resume format focuses on skills first and work history second, making it perfect for someone with employment gaps in their past. If you hope to draw the attention away from your employment gaps, you can also make small changes to your existing format. For example, don’t use a large or bold font for your employment dates. Or go a step further and use a font that’s smaller than the rest of the text.

Keep your work history consistent

Here lies the key to success: all of the materials that professionally represent you must match. In other words, however, you modify your resume, make sure your cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and any other possible sources match. Most employers nowadays review applicants’ social media profiles, so it’s best to ensure that they match the person you claim to be on your resume.

6 good reasons for employment gaps

As clear from these strategies, putting a positive spin on your employment gaps is vital. How you spend and explain your employment gaps is far more important than their presence on your resume. So when you’re thinking of a reasonable explanation, consider some of these good reasons for an employment gap:

  • You were on medical leave.
  • You spent a year on personal development.
  • You have relocated from one country to another.
  • You took time off to be a stay-at-home parent or caregiver.
  • You were let go off due to company downsizing.
  • You spent time gaining further education or certifications.

While focusing on the explanations for employment gaps is essential, it shouldn’t take away from your confidence in your qualifications and skills. Remember that today, employers are much more accepting of employment gaps. A life-long commitment to one company is not as common as it used to be. Most employees have a work history that includes a variety of companies and positions. So be prepared to explain your employment gaps succinctly and confidently, but don’t obsess over them. Instead, focus on selling your unique skill set and valuable experience to the employer.

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