How to Explain Gaps in Employment

It is not uncommon for individuals to have gaps in employment at some point during their life. Despite the reason, these gaps will stand out on your résumé, and you may be expected to explain them during an interview.

Be prepared to overcome this hurdle by having your answers ready ahead of time. Chances are very high that the employer will ask questions about it, and not having a reason for your employment gap may lead the employer to draw their own conclusions.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when preparing to address employment gaps:

  1. Tell the Truth—If an employer believes you are not trustworthy, you definitely will not get the job. If you were out of work, be honest about the reason, and never lie on your cover letter or résumé to cover up the gaps. Keep your explanation simple, show accountability for your own actions, and avoid blaming your previous employers.
  2. Focus on the PositiveWhile you’re out of work, it is important to seek positive opportunities to keep up your skills and make productive contributions. Be sure that you highlight any constructive activities during your gap period, such as volunteering, workshops, coursework, consulting and freelance work. Get excited about returning to work and make a very strong case for why your target job would be great for you and an excellent fit.
  3. Use Your Résumé to Your Advantage—Consider avoiding a strictly chronological résumé—which draws attention to employment gaps—and instead switch to a functional résumé format that emphasizes your skills and job functions. Start by listing all of your related experience, education and skills to the job you are seeking.  In the next section, place those accomplishments into context in a chronological section of job descriptions. You don’t need to list the month/year if you were in a position for over a year or if your position spans multiple years. For example, you could simply say 2008-2014 (rather than April 2010-March 2013), which would give you some room to cover the gaps.

Learn more about writing an effective résumé at GoodProspects. Our resources for job seekers and career advancers can help you get an edge in your search for a new employment opportunity.