Employment Gap on a Resume – 13 Simple Ways to Explain It

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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:

  1. On Your Resume
  2. In Your Cover Letter
  3. 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
    • Walmart
    • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Example – Discussing Employment Gaps in Interviews “I appreciate you bringing up the gap in my employment history. It was a challenging period when I unexpectedly lost my job due to company restructuring. During that time, I decided to make the most of the situation. I enrolled in professional development courses related to my field, attended industry conferences, and actively contributed to online forums discussing industry trends. I also took the opportunity to reflect on my career goals and refine my professional objectives. This experience not only helped me stay updated but also allowed me to emerge from the gap as a more motivated and focused professional, eager to contribute my skills and knowledge to a new opportunity.”

7 Good Reasons For an Employment Gap

Absolutely, there are various valid reasons for an employment gap, and recruiters are generally understanding as long as you can provide a reasonable explanation. Here are some examples of legitimate reasons for an employment gap:

1. Family Reasons: Taking time off to attend to family-related matters, such as raising children, caring for an elderly family member, or handling a family crisis, is widely accepted. It’s crucial to emphasize that the situation is resolved or that your family circumstances have changed if they were the reason for the gap.

2. Self-Discovery: A break to reevaluate your life path and career choices is valid, provided you can demonstrate that you’ve gained clarity and commitment to your new direction.

3. Illness: Health issues that prevented you from working are legitimate reasons for an employment gap. Make sure to convey that you have fully recovered and are now capable of working without hindrance.

4. Injury: Similar to illnesses, injuries that temporarily rendered you unable to work are entirely justifiable reasons for an employment gap. Mention these without hesitation and reassure recruiters of your current fitness for work.

5. Failed Business or Initiative: If your employment gap is due to a failed startup or business endeavor, don’t hesitate to mention it. It showcases your entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to take initiative. Be sure to explain how you rebounded from the experience and what you learned from it.

6. Burnout: Burnout, recognized as an occupational phenomenon by the World Health Organization, can have a significant impact on physical and mental health. If you took time off to address burnout and prioritize your well-being, it’s a valid reason to share with recruiters.

7. Education: Pursuing further education, such as obtaining another degree or certification, is a commendable reason for an employment gap. Employers generally value employees who continually seek to expand their knowledge and skills.

By transparently explaining your employment gap and demonstrating that it’s in the past, you can reassure recruiters and focus their attention on your qualifications and potential as a candidate.

FAQ on Employment Gaps

Certainly, I can provide answers to your questions:

How long is too long of an employment gap?

There is no specific time limit for an employment gap that universally qualifies as “too long.” Shorter gaps, such as those due to job transitions or illness recovery, are generally more acceptable. However, as the gap duration increases, especially if it extends beyond a few years, it can become increasingly challenging to explain to recruiters. The key is to transparently address the reason for the gap and demonstrate your qualifications and readiness for the job.

Is an employment gap bad?

An employment gap itself is not inherently bad. It depends on the reason behind the gap. Gaps due to valid and understandable reasons, such as illness, family emergencies, or personal development, are generally acceptable. The critical factor is to be honest with recruiters and showcase your trustworthiness as a candidate. Employment gaps stemming from less socially acceptable reasons, like incarceration or addiction treatment, can be more challenging to explain and may adversely affect your job prospects.

How do you explain a gap in employment due to being a stay-at-home parent?

To explain an employment gap due to being a stay-at-home parent, you can include the period of the gap on your resume, titled as a “planned career break.” Provide a brief explanation below, such as “Took three years off work to care for my growing children, who are now in elementary school.” Additionally, mention any personal projects, online classes, or other relevant experiences you pursued during the gap to demonstrate your ongoing engagement and development.

How do you explain a gap in employment due to COVID-19?

If your employment gap is due to COVID-19, you can include it on your resume as an “illness-related employment gap” or attribute it directly to COVID-19. In a sentence or two, explain that you had to take a break from work due to COVID-19 and that you are now fully recovered and prepared to reenter the workforce. If your job was impacted by the pandemic, mention the layoff due to the pandemic and describe any steps you took during the gap to find employment or enhance your skills.

Why do employers not like gaps in employment?

Employers may view gaps in employment negatively when they are attributed to reasons like criminal activities, substance abuse, or a pattern of laziness. In such cases, employers may assume that you are an unreliable employee who may exhibit similar behaviors while working for them. However, when there is a legitimate and understandable reason for an employment gap, employers are typically more willing to consider hiring, provided you are otherwise a suitable candidate for the job.

Key Takeaways

And that concludes our discussion on employment gaps and how to address them effectively in your job application. Before we finish, let’s recap the key takeaways from this article:

1. Employment gaps can be explained in three crucial places: your resume, cover letter, and during your job interview.

2. To clarify an employment gap on your resume, honesty is paramount. You can elaborate on the gap, emphasize continuous learning, or opt for a different resume format to minimize its visibility.

3. In your cover letter, explain the gap by showcasing newly acquired skills and providing a valid explanation for why you took the break.

4. If you find yourself explaining an employment gap during an interview, ensure you’ve rehearsed your response in advance, exude confidence, and avoid speaking negatively about past employers.

5. Several valid reasons for an employment gap include family-related responsibilities, illnesses, injuries, personal development or education pursuits, and even entrepreneurial endeavors that may have initially faced setbacks.

Thank you for engaging with this information, and I hope it proves beneficial to you or anyone seeking guidance on handling employment gaps in their job search. If you have further inquiries or require assistance in the future, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Best wishes for your career endeavors!