Huge unexplained gaps in your employment history may harm the impression that employers make about you.
Recruiters and hiring managers want to know why you took time away from the workforce that long.
Failure to which, they may assume you’re a slacker. Or worse still, a criminal, or even an alcoholic.
Now, this begs the question: How can you explain gaps in employment in your resume? Here are the five tried-and-tested tips that work:
1. Honesty Is Key
According to Sharon Armstrong, author of The Essential HR Handbook, honesty is always the best policy.
Besides, think about it: The first person to review your resume is likely to be a human resources representative at a staffing agency.
This is someone who’s probably been reviewing resumes for the longest time possible. And so, if you attempt to cover up gaps in your resume by alternating dates, or just write years in your work experience without months, you’ll easily get noticed.
“Human resources are usually people with great imaginations,” says Armstrong. “Don’t hide it; in about two lines or less, explain what you were doing out of work,” advises Armstrong.
Here’s a clear example of how to explain an employment gap in your resume:
March 2020-May 2021
I was one of many workers at my company who recently got laid off due to COVID-19. It wasn’t a performance issue, but a budget issue.
2. Demonstrate Continuous Learning
Hiring managers are interested in knowing if you made any progress during your employment gap. If you gained new skills and experiences related to the position you’re applying to, don’t hesitate to highlight them.
For example, if you took online classes while you weren’t employed, it would help if you listed them in the education section of your resume. If you were engaged in freelancing or consultancy, that information could be helpful, too.
Suppose you were out of work to act as a full-time caregiver to a sick elderly relative, and you’re seeking a gig in a nurse position, the experience section of your resume would look like this:
Full-Time Caregiver, San Antonio, TX, April 2020-May 2021
Took time off a professional career to serve as a full-time caregiver to a sick elderly relative
Helped feed, bathe, groom, and other day-to-day essential tasks
Administered medications daily as per doctor’s descriptions
Monitored vital signs regularly to check the recovery process
When giving reasons for your employment gaps, remember to show, don’t just tell. Employers want to see concrete examples and situations that demonstrate you really gained a new skill.
In the example above, hiring teams will likely be convinced that you gained critical observation skills. You also learned to adapt to unexpected situations while taking care of your sick elderly relative.
3. Use a Different Resume Format
Using a different resume format in your resume to reduce the visibility of gaps in your employment history. Simple adjustments to formatting – such as putting different font sizes to headers – can make a big difference.
When you format your resume and use different design choices, you’re drawing the reader’s eye to the content you’d like them to focus on. That means they’re unlikely to pay attention to any spaces in between your work history.
If you’re looking to put together a resume that will attract recruiters and hiring managers, use the ResumeBuilderPro. This is a free and professional online resume builder that helps improve your resume to boost your chances of getting hired.
Why Choose Resumist Resume Builder?
The Resumist is about much more than just looks. It helps you build an effective resume in just a few clicks.
We’ve already prepared all the relevant texts for you. All you need to do is drag and drop bullet points, tweak skills, add job descriptions and auto-fill other stuff to make your resume stand out.
When making or formatting your resume with our resume builder, you have the liberty to choose from 16 resume templates approved by HR specialists. You can customize each template for each vacancy by using our ready-to-use phrases.
With Resumist, you get to summarize the statement and career highlights section, highlight your skills and accomplishments, choose a clean font, and nail it all with a splash of color.
Here’s what Resumist lets you do to address employment gaps in your resume:
Pick a recommended single-page resume with one-inch margins
Write with Cambria, Calibri, or another recommended resume font in 10-12pt.
Create resume sections, including Heading, Summary, Experience, Educational Background, and Skills
Add white space for breathability
Save unlimited PDF copies
Download and submit to different employers
The good thing about Resumist is that it checks your resumes for spelling errors. It also follows the resume best practice to make you the go-to candidate.
And when you’re done building your resume, our resume builder will score your resume and give you suggestions to make it look even better. So go ahead and build your resume now.
Expert Tip: You can use a functional resume format instead, where you list your skills and qualifications on top, and then your work history in chronological order. But beware—functional resume formats are an eyesore to most headhunters and may get you disqualified outright.
4. Keep a Positive Mindset
Resume gaps do happen and there is no reason to panic. Learning how to navigate the situation is a sure-fire way to alleviate any potential anxiety.
Keep in mind that cultivating a 100 percent positive, forward-thinking mindset can make all the difference in how gaps in your employment history affect your chances of landing your dream job.
When you’re confident in yourself and how you explain your employment gap, you make continuous progress toward your job search. Don’t show uncertainty in your decision because that will give a bad impression about you.
Toni Frana, a FlexJobs career coach, stresses that you should leverage your accomplishments and career highlights in each of your applications.
“No matter the reason for your career break, don’t downplay whatever you’ve been up to. Explain gaps in your employment history in a positive way,” Toni says.
Therefore, explain your career trajectory clearly and positively – and own up to your decisions! By doing so, hiring managers will be much more confident in your ability to deliver and excel in your new position.
5. Prepare to Explain the Gap During Preliminary Interviews
As stated earlier, a member of the human resources team will review your resume before forwarding it to the hiring manager. At this point of screening candidates, they may reach out to you inquiring additional information about your employment gaps.
You need to sit down in advance and practice a short, simple, and truthful explanation about your resume gaps. This will be of great help should you receive these preliminary calls from the human resources team.
When explaining a gap, provide a clear rationale behind your taking a break from your professional career. If you were declared redundant due to a workforce contraction, make sure you give any evidence of the downsizing.
As a reiteration, resume gaps aren’t a new thing, especially in an unstable economy. There’s absolutely no reason to fret about every gap in employment.
By being honest, proactive, and positive, you can explain any employment gaps in a way that will convince employers that you’re an excellent fit.
Now, go ahead and put together a killer resume that addresses your employment gaps!