Tips for Explaining Gaps in Employment on Your Resume


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More often than not, a resume is your introduction to a hiring manager – and this first impression can make or break your chance at an interview. If you find yourself explaining gaps in employment on your resume, you want to ensure they do not stand in your way. 

The truth is, hiring managers are very used to seeing gaps in employment history. And with the unemployment rate peaking to 14.8% in the U.S. in April 2020, many of today’s candidates are presenting resumes with pandemic-related gaps. 

If you are navigating unemployment gaps related to the pandemic such as medical issues, full-time caregiver duties or other common scenarios, your main goal should be to honestly address the gap and turn the focus to your skills and experiences.

In this article, you will find tips for being proactive with your time while unemployed, as well as the best ways to handle gaps on your resume, within your cover letter and during an interview.

Be Proactive

There are many ways you can be proactive when explaining gaps in employment on your resume, or job search, that will provide you with quality material for building your resume, writing your cover letter and even interviewing. 

  1. Do stay in the game. Looking for a new job can feel like full-time work, so spending a few hours each week on professional development can keep you connected to your industry. Consider volunteering a few hours each week, or enrolling in an online course related to your field. 
  2. Don’t burn bridges. If you left a previous position on good terms, stay connected. You never know when a previous colleague or even boss might be able to assist you in your job hunt. Even if you were dismissed or fired, don’t speak negatively about your former employer or coworkers. Leave every situation on the best terms possible. 

Do ask for recommendations from your peers and previous colleagues. While you can easily request recommendations directly from LinkedIn connections, we advise calling or sending an email to ask if it is OK to request a LinkedIn recommendation. This ensures your connections aren’t caught off guard and also gives you an opportunity to catch up and bring them up to speed on your situation.

Writing your resume

Hiring managers are more likely to make negative assumptions if you fail to take time explaining gaps in employment on your resume. On the flip side, lying or stretching employment so there are no gaps will only get you in trouble. It’s easy for hiring managers to verify employment history. It’s best to be transparent and honest. 

Here are four tips for crafting your resume: 

  • Leverage formatting. Use years instead of months to make short employment gaps less obvious. If you choose this route, be prepared to give specific employment information if asked during an interview. 
  • Before:

Senior Associate | ABC Consulting | December 2016-April 2019 

Executive Assistant | Best Sales | October 2014 – July 2016

  • After

Senior Associate | ABC Consulting | 2016-2019

Executive Assistant | Best Sales | 2014-2016 

  • Name the gap. Consider including extended employment gaps in your experiences section. When doing so, be brief and focus on skill(s) learned. 
    • Sabbatical, 2017-2018
    • Full-time caregiver.
    • Completed SEO and advanced Google Analytics coursework. 
  • Include other relevant experiences. Adding relevant volunteer work, education, freelance or consultant work to your resume helps fill in gaps and shows how proactive you were when unemployed. 

Update your LinkedIn profile. Verify that your resume lines up with your LinkedIn profile. Many hiring managers Google potential candidates, so the two must be in sync!

Writing your cover letter

If you have a longer gap in employment – be it three years as a full-time caregiver or an extended period of full-time parenting – consider providing a one-to-two sentence explanation in your cover letter. Make sure the explanation is straightforward and factual, but don’t overshare. Focus on your skills, productive ways you used your time while unemployed, and emphasize why you are the right person for the job. 

Preparing for an interview

Be ready to start explaining gaps in employment on your resume during the interview. If a hiring manager is concerned about the gaps, they will ask additional questions. Just like on your resume and in your cover letter, be honest and brief. Your main goal is to make it clear you are committed to re-entering – and remaining in – the workforce. Sell your experiences and skills and assure the hiring manager that you are ready to take on everything the role has to offer. 

Bottom line

Worrying gaps in your employment history will keep you from landing an interview? Here are tips for navigating gaps in your resume and turning the focus toward your skills and experiences. 

Want more information on how to have an impactful and successful resume? Check out LeadUp’s Targeted Resume Guide!

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