Job history interruptions are a common occurrence and often cause apprehension. This is primarily because recruiters tend to assume the worst when encountering them on a CV.
Nevertheless, it’s essential to understand that employment gaps are often entirely reasonable. Numerous justifiable explanations exist for these gaps, ranging from pursuing further education, embarking on travels, to dedicating time to the care of growing children.
The key takeaway here is that employment gaps need not be a significant concern, provided you can adeptly elucidate them in your resume.
To gain insights into effectively addressing employment gaps on your resume, we have compiled this comprehensive guide for your benefit. Here’s what we’ll delve into:
- 13 Effective Strategies for Clarifying Employment Gaps
- Valid and Acceptable Reasons for Employment Gaps
- A Sample Resume Demonstrating an Employment Gap
- And much more! Let’s dive into the details right away!
13 Best Ways to Explain Employment Gaps
Throughout your job search journey, you will encounter three distinct opportunities to elucidate an employment gap:
- On Your Resume
- In Your Cover Letter
- During Your Interview
To effectively communicate the presence of an employment gap and the underlying reasons, it’s essential to address it in all three contexts. Below, we will outline the optimal approaches for explaining an employment gap on your resume, within your cover letter, and during an interview:
6 Strategies to Clarify an Employment Gap on Your Resume
1. Embrace Honesty
Your resume serves as the initial point of scrutiny for recruiters, making honesty a paramount virtue. Concealing a substantial employment gap, such as a two-year hiatus, may lead to its revelation during an interview—a situation to be avoided.
Therefore, it is imperative to exhibit candor regarding your employment history, including any gaps. It is crucial to recognize that prospective employers are likely to uncover these gaps, particularly if they were prolonged or recent. Endeavoring to conceal them will only undermine your application, potentially raising concerns in the eyes of recruiters.
Moreover, it’s important to bear in mind that recruiters are human too, and they tend to be understanding when candidates are forthright about their employment gaps and the reasons behind them. So, addressing these gaps transparently can work in your favor.
2. Eliminate Outdated Employment Gaps (If It’s Outdated)
Here’s some encouraging news: if your employment gap is outdated, you can safely exclude it from your resume.
For instance, if your employment gap dates back 10 years, especially as an experienced professional, it’s unlikely that you’ll be including jobs from that distant past on your resume. The goal is to keep your resume as pertinent as possible and adhere to the recommended one-page resume length.
Hence, it is entirely acceptable to omit employment gaps that extend far beyond your recent employment history or are relatively brief, such as six-month gaps occurring between jobs.
3. Elaborate on the Gap
In resume construction, merely listing the dates of your employment gap falls short; it leaves room for interpretation by recruiters.
Consider the following illustration:
Incorrect Example: Work Experience
- Digital Marketer
- Airfield Baumax
- 02/2012 – 04/2015
- Marketing Assistant
- 05/2007 – 07/2009
The only apparent detail this candidate provides is a three-year period without employment. Beyond that, recruiters remain uninformed about the cause of the employment gap, whether it was for a legitimate reason or due to a personal choice.
This underscores the importance of explicitly articulating the precise reason for the employment gap between your work experience entries.
Here’s a well-executed example:
Correct Example – Addressing Employment Gap on Resume
- 07/2009 – 01/2012
From September 2009 to January 2012, I embarked on a backpacking journey through Europe and East Asia. This had been a long-standing personal goal I aspired to achieve before reaching the age of 30.
4. Explore Alternate Resume Formats
For substantial employment gaps that span beyond a few brief months, considering an alternative resume format can be advantageous.
Formats such as the functional resume and the combination format place greater emphasis on showcasing your skills and competencies, rather than solely highlighting your chronological work history. This shift in focus can help divert attention away from your employment gap.
However, it’s crucial to emphasize that opting for a different resume layout should not involve omitting the employment gap entirely. Honesty remains paramount in this regard, as falsifying information is never the appropriate course of action and can have detrimental consequences, even if you secure the job.
5. Make Productive Use of Your Time Off
If you find yourself in an unexpected employment gap and are concerned about its impact on future job applications, adopting a proactive approach is advisable.
Rather than merely characterizing your forthcoming employment gap as a “career break” or “job search period,” seize the opportunity to embark on a personal project that can add substantial value to your resume.
For instance, consider enrolling in online courses relevant to your profession during your work hiatus or initiate a project that you’ve long aspired to undertake but never had the chance to pursue.
By doing so, you will have more to showcase than just a period of job searching or self-discovery. This proactive approach demonstrates to recruiters that you are consistently advancing and growing, even outside of the traditional office setting.
6. Showcase Continuous Learning
Highlighting your skills and knowledge acquisition is a compelling approach to bridge past employment gaps. While you may not have been engaged in formal employment, you could have dedicated your time to self-improvement and professional growth.
Consider incorporating a statement like this on your resume to address your employment gap:
Correct Example – Addressing Employment Gap on Resume
– 06/2012 – 09/2013
During this period, I took a year to focus on personal and professional development. Over the course of the year, I achieved the following:
– Initiated my own marketing blog.
– Read more than 20 books on digital marketing.
– Participated in over 5 networking events.
This approach underscores your commitment to continuous learning and self-enhancement, portraying you as a proactive candidate.
3 Ways to Explain Employment Gaps in Cover Letters
If you want to delve deeper into addressing your employment gap, your cover letter provides the ideal platform for doing so. Unlike your resume, which typically allows for only a few sentences, your cover letter offers more room to provide comprehensive explanations. Here’s how to effectively utilize your cover letter to address your employment gap:
1. Offer a Valid Explanation: The primary objective of mentioning your employment gap in your cover letter is to provide a compelling justification. For instance, rather than stating, “took 1 year off work because of injury,” you can offer a more convincing explanation such as, “took a one-year hiatus from work following a car accident that necessitated intensive physiotherapy sessions for a complete recovery.” Providing specific details demonstrates your transparency and the legitimacy of your gap.
2. Highlight Newly Acquired Skills: It’s crucial to emphasize any new skills you gained during your time off. The cover letter affords you the opportunity to elaborate on the skills you acquired and what motivated you to do so. For example, you can say, “Due to organizational changes, I was laid off from my previous job. However, during my job search, I dedicated time to stay current with industry trends through extensive reading, obtained online certifications, and expanded my professional network by connecting with experts in the field.” This showcases your proactive approach and commitment to professional growth.
3. Avoid Over-Sharing: While the cover letter provides more space, it’s important not to divulge excessive details about your employment gap. If, for instance, you took a one-year break to address burnout, you don’t need to provide an exhaustive account of your personal experiences. Instead, you can state, “I took a one-year hiatus from work to address work-related burnout and re-evaluate my career objectives.” If you feel it’s essential to share more, focus on how you grew professionally rather than delving into personal experiences. This maintains a balance between transparency and discretion.
4 Ways to Explain Employment Gaps in Interviews
Addressing an employment gap during an interview is a critical aspect of the job application process. Here are some effective strategies for handling this situation:
- Prepare in Advance: Anticipate that the topic of your employment gap may come up during the interview. Take the time to rehearse your response in advance so that you can confidently and articulately address it if it’s raised.
- Avoid Criticizing Former Employers: If your employment gap resulted from being let go from a previous job, refrain from speaking negatively about your former employer. Instead, focus on highlighting the steps you took to rebound from the situation and demonstrate why you are an ideal fit for the current position.
- Highlight Your Strengths: In cases where the job loss was beyond your control, redirect the conversation toward your strengths and accomplishments as an employee prior to the employment gap. Emphasize your positive contributions and the value you brought to your previous roles.
- Project Confidence: How you communicate your explanation is just as important as the content of your response. If you appear nervous or uncertain when discussing your employment gap, it may raise concerns. Practice your communication skills beforehand, and begin the interview with confidence.