How to Address an Employment Gap on Your Resume

Glasses resting on paper
According to the U.S. Department of Labor August’s statistics, 8 million Americans are unemployed so if you’re worried about a career gap on your resume, rest assured you are not the only one. The unfortunate truth is that, on paper, a gap in employment can be troublesome. Your resume paints an overall picture of your professional ambitions and accomplishments and that gap in your employment history has the potential to impact the story you’re hoping to tell. The problem is, often a career gap is more about what it implies; such gaps can give employers the wrong idea, leading them to believe you were incapable of keeping or landing a job, or that you’re lazy and don’t care about your career.
Resume and Glasses

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.