How to Explain Employment Gaps on Your Resume: Tips & Tricks

How To Explain 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 your 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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