Gaps in Your Resume? Here’s How to Address Them with Potential Employers

Gaps in your resume

Contents

  1. What Is an Employment Gap on a Resume?
  2. What to Do if You Have Employment Gaps on Your Resume 
    • Pursue Additional Education
    • Consider Freelancing Part-Time
  3. Tips for Handling Gaps in Your Resume 
    • Identify Whether You Need to Explain Your Gap
    • Consider Modifying Your Resume to Hide Tiny Gaps
    • List Gaps in Your Resume as a Job
    • Include Any Relevant Experiences and Skills You Acquired During the Gap
  4. Common Reasons for Gaps in Employment
  5. Consider Working with a Career Coach
  6. Put Your Best Foot Forward with YES

If you’re one of the millions who have taken a few months or years off from their careers, you may worry about gaps in your resume. Recruiters can be wary of candidates who take extended periods away from work, especially if the applicant doesn’t indicate why.

 Fortunately, there are ways to explain gaps in your resume without derailing your chances for an attractive new role. YES offers professional resume writing services that can help. Contact us today to get started!

What Is an Employment Gap on a Resume?

Employment gaps include any time you’re unemployed or between jobs. You usually won’t need to explain a short interlude of a month or less. However, gaps that exceed a month or longer will require an explanation. Otherwise, employers may worry that you’re undependable or a potential flight risk if they hire you.

Some employment gaps are completely voluntary, while others are involuntary. A voluntary gap occurs when you leave your job for personal reasons, like a health issue, caring for dependents, or pursuing interests like starting a new business.

An involuntary gap usually results from being fired or laid off from a previous job. Involuntary gaps are harder to explain, but you can turn them into a positive through various means.

What to Do if You Have Employment Gaps on Your Resume

If you recently lost your job or left for personal reasons, you’ll probably in the course of preparing yourself for your eventual return to your career. Even if you don’t plan on working again for a few years, there are ways you can use the time wisely that will show employers you maintained your skills in the meantime. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Pursue Additional Education

If you’re taking time off from your career to care for yourself or your family, consider working toward a new degree or certification that will keep your skills relevant to future employers. You should choose something you can work toward part-time, especially if you know your hands will be full caring for young children or older relatives.

Education is always a good fallback for people who take an extended period away from their regular professions. It helps you retain your skills so you don’t fall behind other colleagues who continue on their career paths.

Consider Freelancing Part-Time

You might not want to work toward additional education, especially if it’s too costly or you don’t plan to be unemployed for long. In that case, consider taking on a part-time job or freelancing in your profession.

Finding freelancing opportunities that don’t require a full-time commitment is pretty straightforward on online job sites like Upwork or Indeed.

Tips for Handling Gaps in Your Resume

If you already have gaps in your work history and want to look for a new job, you’ll need to determine how to present them in your resume. The worst thing you can do is leave unexplained gaps.

If you don’t take the time to explain them, hiring managers may look past your resume in favor of someone else’s, even if you’re fully qualified for the role.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

1. Identify Whether You Need to Explain Your Gap

In some cases, you won’t need to explain a gap at all. For instance, if you were only unemployed for part of a year, you could simply use years and not months on your resume, making the gap disappear.

However, that won’t work for some jobs. For instance, federal government roles typically require listing all your prior positions, including the month you left. That’s part of their background check process, and you’ll need to respond accurately if you want to get through their hiring procedures.

Still, even the federal government allows gaps less than six months to go unexplained.

If the gap exceeded six months, you’ll want to put a brief explanation, such as Full-time Student, Job Seeker, Full-time Parent, or Full-time Elder Caregiver with the corresponding months.

2. Consider Modifying Your Resume to Hide Tiny Gaps

Use only years instead of months and years if you don’t want to show that a job ended without your having another one in place (which begs the question whether you were fired).

But of course, if a hiring manager wants to dive into the details of your start and end dates, be prepared to answer their questions honestly and put a positive spin on what transpired.

For example, if you took a month off between roles to spend more time with family or take a nice vacation, that’s acceptable, and most employers will move on to the next question with no concerns. Also, being laid off due to a downturn in business is not usually held against you, unless you seem bitter about it. Even resigning with proper notice is usually accepted, as you are not anyone’s slave.

3. List Gaps in Your Resume as a Job

If your employment gap has to show on the resume, you may want to list the reason for your unemployment as its own job.

Listing the gap addresses the issue head-on and provides justification to the hiring manager so they understand what you were doing when you weren’t working.

For instance, if you took time away from work to care for a parent undergoing cancer treatment, you might explain the gap using the following statement:

“Cared for Aging Parent, Shreveport, LA, 2020–2022

“Took time away from my career to care for my father, who developed terminal cancer and needed full-time support through the course of his illness. Managed his household and oversaw finances, medical arrangements, and other necessities.”

Taking time off to care for a family member is something most employers will completely understand. The needs of children and aging parents should come before your career, especially if they require full-time, hands-on assistance.

4. Include Any Relevant Experiences and Skills You Acquired During The Gap

Sometimes, people acquire specific experiences and skills during a career gap that can be highly relevant to the job they’re seeking.

For instance, if you took time off from your profession because you wanted to learn a foreign language that would qualify you for employment in another country, that would be something a future employer would like to know. If you’re now bilingual in German and English and looking for a job in Germany or Austria, your new language capabilities would be critical to nailing the opportunity you seek.

Similarly, if you took time away from your job to prepare for a career change and earned a new degree or certification, that could be relevant to a new employer. You should include any experience you obtained in explaining the gap in your resume.

Common Reasons for Gaps in Employment

There are multiple reasons why someone might have employment gaps in their resume. Here are several of the most common:

  • Looking for a suitable role that fit your skills and experience
  • Being laid off due to organizational changes
  • Leaving to care for aging parents or young children
  • Taking time to address health concerns
  • Obtaining a new degree, license, or certification
  • Moving from one place to another
  • Pursuing a personal endeavor, like starting a business (This can be listed as self-employment.)

An employment gap doesn’t mean you’ll never find a job in your profession again. As long as you explain why, and the reason doesn’t makes you look bad, employers won’t penalize you. Remember, they need staff. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be hiring for an open role.

Consider Working with a Career Coach

If you’re uncomfortable with explaining the gaps in your resume, hiring a career coach to navigate your job search is a good idea. Career coaches are experienced human resource professionals who can help you build your confidence after an extended period away from work.

They can help you highlight the accomplishments and skills employers are likely to be receptive to, and they can prepare you for the interview process so you understand how to handle any questions about your employment gaps.

YES provides career coaching services for professionals who need help finding a job after an extended gap, and some of their packages come with a job offer guarantee.

Put Your Best Foot Forward with YES

If you’re unsure how to present gaps in your resume to potential employers, YES offers professional resume writing services that can ease your mind. We regularly help people who take time away from their profession get their careers back on track. Reach out to book a free Career Success Consultation, and let’s get you your dream job.


About the Authors

President of YES
Farrah is not a resume writer
Vice president of YES

Katherine Metres Akbar is the founder and president of YES Career Coaching & Resume Writing Services, one of Washington metro’s two top-rated career success companies. She and her team have helped over 5,000 people and organizations perfect their resumes, master networking, get interviews, receive offers for dream jobs, resettle employees through outplacement, and optimize their teams. Katherine is the world’s only Interview AikidoTM coach, a Certified Talent Optimization Consultant, Certified Professional Career Coach, and a Certified Professional Interview Coach. An award-winning writer, she previously served as a U.S. diplomat and executive director of a civil rights non-profit. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University.

Michael Akbar is the co-owner and vice president of YES Career Coaching & Resume Writing Services. He is a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Federal Career Coach, Certified Business Advisor, and Certified Talent Optimization Consultant helping leaders build their dream teams. Michael leverages his business development background to help coachees get their dream job, often on the hidden job market. Michael has  spent 15 years as an entrepreneur coaching business owners to break through their barriers to success. After talking his way into two jobs in order to get a work visa, Michael was inspired to create Interview AikidoTM to help people get jobs, even when they are underqualified. He holds a Bachelor of Science from McGill University and a Master of Science from the City University of London.

The home team is completed by Farah Akbar, a joyful, stubborn, and—some say—adorable terrier/pitbull mix the Akbars adopted from the shelter after a traumatic early life.


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