How to Explain Gaps in Employment

By Randy Wooden, Director, Professional Center by Goodwill, Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina

Gaps in employment are common. How can you tell the story behind them on a résumé and in your interviews?

The current pandemic has pushed tens of millions of workers out of their jobs through no fault of their own. Unlike in past generations where workers stayed with their employers throughout their careers, it’s common for people to have job histories with multiple employers and periods of unemployment between jobs.

If you’ve found yourself out of work due to the pandemic, you’re certainly not alone. More than 40 million people are in the same boat. In the past, your time out of work didn’t need to be noted unless it lasted more than six months or so. You would want to mention what you’d been doing during that time — education, volunteerism, or caring for family members, for example — to show you’d been active.

With COVID-19 front of mind, you could feel comfortable noting, “Laid off due to COVID-19,” beside your company/title on your résumé. This shows you were caught up in this worldwide pandemic and didn’t lose your job due to cause. Prospective employers will likely understand.

Fast forward to your interview. A hiring manager will likely ask you what you’ve done during your down time in this pandemic. Sitting at home, watching TV or staring at the walls isn’t a great answer. Instead, talk about how you home-schooled your children, took online classes, or volunteered in your community, for example.

If you’re shifting from the work you’ve done prior to your layoff to what you’d like to do next, be sure to conduct informational interviews and take free online assessments to determine your personality and vocational preferences. You can use career advancement tools on Goodwill’s website to explore your interests and options. The more you can pin down the “why” behind why you’re applying for a job, the better prepared you will be to help a potential new employer understand the process you’ve gone through to choose a career path. Many people are exploring new options; be prepared to speak to the changes on your résumé and during your interviews.

If you need help preparing, Goodwill can help. Many local Goodwill organizations are providing online training, live virtual classes, and virtual career development services by phone or video conference, all at no cost to you. To learn about the career services available in your area, visit the Goodwill Locator. Click the Filter option and select Headquarters only. Then, enter your ZIP or Postal code and click the magnifying glass or hit Enter to find your local Goodwill’s website, social media channels or phone number for localized information.