Assessing applicants that have significant gaps in their resumes is difficult for organizations. When they come across employment gaps, different questions come to mind, like “Why did this applicant spend so much time without work? Do they not get along with coworkers? Or are they just bad at their job?”
To remove any doubt potential organizations might have about your competence and suitability for a position, it’s best to address those gaps appropriately.
Let’s dive into how you can explain gaps in employment on your resume.
What Are They, and When Do You Need to Mention Them?
An employment gap refers to periods when an employee is unemployed, such as being between jobs, taking a sabbatical, or dealing with a personal situation. Whether or not you need to mention it depends on the situation.
Suppose the gap is short, and you can easily justify it with reasonable circumstances, such as completing a short-term course or caring for a family member – then it may be unnecessary to mention it.
But if there was a significant time you were unemployed, lasting six months or more, or if it might raise questions about your employability or qualifications for a specific role, it’s better to address it proactively.
Was the gap within the past year? Was it long ago? Do you have multiple gaps on your resume? These are the questions you can ask yourself. It might be reasonable to leave the gap on your resume if it was a one-time situation long ago.
But if it was recent, or if there are multiple gaps, it’s best to give some explanation. Otherwise, it could raise doubts about your employability.
Every organization perceives gaps differently. Some may see it as a red flag, while others can easily understand its reason.
Look through the organization’s values and culture. It will help you gauge how much detail you should share with the organization you’re applying for.
How to Explain Gaps in Employment on Your Resume
Resume gaps could be tricky, but following these steps can help you stay ahead of the curve.
1. Add a brief explanation.
Were you laid off or terminated because of a violation? Is it personal, like health issues or family obligations? Or a personal choice to leave your work and take a year-long vacation?
There are reasons that you can easily explain and will less likely affect your qualifications. But if it is personal or things that can affect you negatively, it can be more challenging to discuss and may require more consideration and preparation.
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Here are a few brief examples that you could use on your resume to fill the gap:
- To care for a family member or manage family affairs.
- To pursue additional education or skill.
- To start a new business or career path that you no longer follow.
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2. Keep the focus on how productive you’ve been.
If you want to provide good reasons for your resume gap:
- Don’t just state them there plainly.
- Consider sharing your personal and professional journey.
- Explain why you left your previous role and what you learned from those experiences.
- Share what you’ve been doing during the gaps.
Have you been simply inactive? Or did you enhance your skill set by learning new things, attending conferences, or engaging in volunteer work?
If you took time off to take a sabbatical to recharge, emphasize how this experience enriched your life and prepared you to return to the workforce.
3. Avoid calling too much attention to the gaps.
It’s fine to include some gaps in your resume, but it can raise concerns when they become too prolonged or frequent. Instead, and if the application allows you, try concealing the gaps on your resume by leaving out the months or the exact dates and replacing them with what years you’ve worked in each role.
Suppose you worked in a specific role from February 2019 to January 2020 and returned to work in December 2020. You could conceal this gap by indicating the dates of your first work as 2019-2020.
This approach emphasizes your overall experience while concealing gaps in your employment history through omission.
4. Provide a reference in your resume.
If you have several gaps in your recent employment history, try including a quote from a leader you recently worked directly for. Someone who can speak to your character and work ethic can give you a greater advantage. Like in marketing, word of mouth is a powerful tool you can utilize, and these can help:
- Provide additional context and verification of your work history.
- Address potential employer concerns.
- Establish trust and credibility.
Preparation for Your Career Search
Having gaps in your resume can make it hard to land a new role. But you can still strengthen your resume and increase your chances of returning to work.
1. Be prepared to discuss any gap you have during your interview.
Anticipate interview questions and practice your responses ahead of time. Stay positive during your interview and show excitement about the opportunity to return to work and contribute to the organization.
2. Consider working on a temporary assignment or upskilling.
Consider taking on temporary or contract work. It shows that you’re willing to work and fill the gap in your work history. Staffing firms like ACS Professional Staffing help individuals find temporary positions, and it’s only one of our services.
Alternatively, you can use this time to refresh some skills or upskill by taking classes or online courses.
3. Opportunities can come from where you least expect them.
Leverage your network and reach out for potential job leads or recommendations. There are various networking platforms you can use, like LinkedIn and Facebook. Popular freelancing sites have also become common, and they offer a variety of administrative, creative, and tech jobs.
4. Make use of a cover letter.
You can use a cover letter or interview to provide context instead of taking up space on your resume. It offers more room to explain your situation concisely.
In the case of a career shift, use it to describe how your previous experience and abilities align with the new role.
Some recruiters may skip or skim through cover letters, so it is still best to provide the same information in an interview.
NEED EXTRA HELP TO CLAIM YOUR DREAM JOB REGARDLESS OF THE GAPS? ACS PROFESSIONAL STAFFING IS HERE FOR YOU!
ACS Professional Staffing believes employment gaps are typical and shouldn’t stop you from advancing your career. Whether you’re looking for temporary assignments, contract work, networking opportunities, skill-building opportunities, or resources to help you land your next long-term role, we’re here to help.
Our team is committed to understanding your career goals, background, and skill set, and we can leverage this to identify the most suitable career opportunities in the market that not only aligns with your passion but also allows you to excel.