Employment Gap on a Resume - 13 Simple Ways to Explain It
Employment gaps are not uncommon, yet they’re quite scary. Mainly, that’s because recruiters assume the worst when they see them on a resume.
In most cases, however, employment gaps are nothing to be scared of. There can be many justifiable reasons why someone has an employment gap, from going back to school and deciding to travel to taking time and caring for their growing children.
So what we’re getting to here is this: employment gaps are not a big deal, as long as you know how to explain them well on your resume
To learn how to explain an employment gap on a resume, we’ve put together this guide for you. Here’s what we’ll cover:
13 Best Ways to Explain Employment Gaps
- Good Reasons for an Employment Gap
Sample Resume with Employment Gap
And more! So let’s dive right in!
During your job hunt , you’ll have three separate chances to explain an employment gap:
- On your resume
- On your cover letter
- During your interview
To best convey the employment gap (and reasons behind it), you’ll need to touch on it in all 3. So below, we’ll explain the best way to explain an employment gap on your resume, cover letter, and during an interview:
6 Ways to Explain an Employment Gap on Your Resume
#1. be honest .
Your resume is the first thing that recruiters check, so it’s crucial that you’re honest!
After all, you don’t want to omit a two-year-long employment gap from your resume, for example, only to have it be revealed during your interview.
As such, it’s super important that you’re honest about your employment history - or lack thereof - right there on your resume.
What’s important here is to understand that potential employers will find out about your employment gap - especially if it was a lengthy or recent one. As such, trying to hide it will only damage your application and give recruiters even more reason to believe you have something to hide.
And, if you’re feeling anxious about it, remember that recruiters are also humans and will probably be understanding if you are straightforward about your employment gap - and about what caused it!
#2. Remove the Employment Gap (If It’s Outdated)
Here’s some good news: if your employment gap is old, you can safely omit it from your resume entirely.
Say, for example, your employment gap is from 10 years ago. Chances are - especially if you’re a seasoned professional - that you won’t even be including jobs from 10 years ago on your resume. After all, you want your resume to be as relevant as possible (and stay within the recommended 1-page resume length).
As such, it’s totally OK to omit employment gaps that stretch long before your recent employment history (or that are quite short, like 6-month-old employment gaps while you were between jobs).
#3. Explain the Gap
When it comes to resumes, simply writing down the dates of your employment gap won’t cut it - it would only leave things open to recruiters’ interpretation.
Take the following example:
Digital Marketer Airfield Baumax 02/2012 - 04/2015
Marketing Assistant Walmart 05/2007 - 07/2009
The only thing that this candidate makes clear to recruiters is that he was not working for a 3-year period. Apart from that, recruiters have no way of knowing whether the employment gap was due to a valid reason or because the candidate decided to be a couch potato for some years.
This is why it’s better to actually write out the exact reason for the employment gap in-between your work experience entries.
Here’s an example that does it right:
07/2009 - 01/2012
From September 2009 to January 2012, I backpacked through Europe and East Asia. This had long been a goal of mine to achieve before turning 30.
#4. Take Advantage of a Different Resume Layout
If your employment gap is longer than just a few short months, you could benefit from using a different resume layout altogether.
For example, the functional resume format and the combination format put more emphasis on your skills and competencies rather than on your work experience, which is a great way to shift focus from your employment gap.
That said, taking advantage of a different resume layout does not mean you should omit the employment gap from your resume altogether . Lying is never the right way to go here, and will always end badly for you (even if you manage to get the job).
#5. Use Your Time Away Effectively
If you’re suddenly in between jobs and are worried about how this will reflect on your future job applications, get proactive!
Instead of simply explaining your future employment gap as a “career break” or “job searching,” start a personal project and create something more valuable to put on your resume.
For instance, you can join one or more online courses related to your profession while you’re on a break from work, or start that project you always wanted to work on but never had the chance to!
That way, you’ll have much more to talk about than simply stating you were looking for jobs or taking a self-discovery break and you’ll be effectively showing recruiters that you’re constantly growing - even outside the office!
#6. Show That You Never Stopped Learning
Highlighting your skills and acquired knowledge is also a great way to cover past employment gaps. Sure, you might’ve not been working, but you could’ve still been working on developing yourself as a professional or individual.
You could, for example, mention something like this on your resume to address your employment gap:
06/2012 - 09/2013
Took a year off my career to focus on personal and professional development. Over the duration of the year, I managed to:
- Start my own marketing blog.
- Read 20+ books about digital marketing.
- Attended 5+ networking events.
3 Ways to Explain Employment Gaps in Cover Letters
Want to go more in-depth into your employment gap? Your cover letter is your chance to do so.
Unlike your resume, which barely leaves you 2-3 sentences worth of space to explain yourself, you can be way more comprehensive in your cover letter .
Specifically, you can use the body of your cover letter to give more details about your employment gap.
Here are the best ways to do it:
- Give a valid explanation. The whole point of mentioning your employment gap on your cover letter is to justify it the best way you can. For example, if you had an accident, writing “took 1 year off work because of injury” won’t be as convincing as writing “took 1 year off work after a car accident that required me to do intense physiotherapy sessions to fully recover.”
- Highlight new skills . Additionally, it’s super important to highlight any new skills acquired during your time off. The good thing about the cover letter is that you have a better chance of explaining the skills and what motivated you to acquire them (e.g. “due to organizational changes, I was laid off from my previous job. However, I used the time it took me to find a new job to catch up on industry-related trends and readings, get online certifications, and network with professionals in the field.”)
- Don’t overshare. Last but not least, it’s important to know that just because you have more space on your cover letter it doesn’t mean you should overshare the details of your employment gap. If, for instance, you took a one-year break to deal with burnout , you don’t have to give too many details about how that went. So, instead of writing, “took a year off to recuperate from burnout, during which time I consulted 3 different therapists and several support groups,” you can just write “took one year off work to deal with work-related burnout and re-asses my professional goals.” If you think it’s important to share more information, talk about how you grew professionally not about what you went through personally.
4 Ways to Explain Employment Gaps in Interviews
If your resume and cover letter make a good impression, chances are you’ll be called for an interview. And, even if you have already explained your employment gap, there’s nothing keeping recruiters from asking you again about it.
Here’s what you can do to address an employment gap during your interview effectively:
- Rehearse in advance. Your best bet is assuming that you will be asked about your employment gap. That way, you can take the time to prep your answer in advance and won’t be taken back if recruiters actually ask the questions during the interview .
- DON’T badmouth your former employer. If your employment gap is due to getting fired, bashing your former employer won’t help you get a new position - if anything, it might make you look immature. Instead, try to highlight all the steps you took to bounce back from getting fired and show recruiters why you’re the ideal candidate for this position.
- Focus on what you did right. Now, if you lost your job unjustly (or due to reasons outside of your control), the way to make a great impression is to focus on how you were a stellar employee before the employment gap! That way, you can shift recruiters’ attention to your strengths, instead of simply telling them you lost your job and there wasn’t much you could do about it.
- Be confident. Sometimes, how you say things is just as important as what you say. If recruiters ask that you elaborate on your employment gap and you suddenly get super nervous about it, you’ll probably raise some serious red flags. So, make sure to polish your communication skills in advance and start your interview with a show of confidence.
Here is an example of how you can address your employment gap during an interview:
Unfortunately, I lost my job due to cuts within the company. During the time I was looking for jobs, I took online courses to hone my skills, stayed updated with all industry trends and developments, and focused on my mental wellbeing. I am now in perfect shape to put all I learned into practice throughout my new endeavors.
7 Good Reasons For an Employment Gap
There can be countless reasons behind an employment gap and, as long as it’s not related to something like, say, jail time, it shouldn’t hinder your chances of getting employed.
That said, here are some great examples of good reasons for an employment gap:
- Family reasons. Family is super important and most recruiters are guaranteed to be understanding if your employment gap is due to family-related issues. What’s important here is to show that whatever family reason you had for taking time off work, it’s over now (e.g. if you took time off to raise your kids, make a point explaining they’re all grown up and off to school now).
- Self-discovery. Did you take some time off work to redefine your life path and career choices? That’s totally OK - as long as you can convince recruiters that you now have your answers and won’t be leaving this job again after a year or two.
- Illness. Any illness you may have suffered that’s hindered you from working is a totally legitimate reason to explain your employment gap. Just make sure to mention you’re recovered and fully able to work.
- Injury. Just like with illnesses, injuries that render you incapable of work are perfectly fine reasons to explain an employment gap, so mention them without hesitation.
- Failed business or initiative. You may be hesitant to mention a failed startup or business initiative as the reason behind your employment gap, but there’s no reason to! If anything, it shows you have initiative and aren’t scared to act on it. So, as long as you show recruiters how you bounced back, you shouldn’t hide this valid reason.
- Burnout. The World Health Organization defines burnout as an occupational phenomenon that can take a serious toll on someone’s physical and mental health. As such, don’t hesitate to tell recruiters that you took some time off to improve your well-being after experiencing burnout in the workplace .
- Education. No one minds an employee who’s always looking to expand their knowledge, so if you took a break from work to get another degree, go ahead and mention that on your resume.
7 Other Resume Resources
Building a strong resume is hard enough without having to explain an employment gap. Struggling with other aspects of building a resume? Check out some of our top resources:
- How to Write a Resume . The ULTIMATE beginner’s guide on how to make a resume in 2023. Includes tops of tips, resume examples, and more.
- Free Resume Templates . Want to avoid the hassle of formatting your resume from scratch? Just pick one of our 8 free resume templates and get started with your resume within minutes.
- Career Change Resume . Is your employment gap due to a career change? Learn how to write an awesome career change resume with these 9+ examples.
- What to Put on a Resume . Here are the most important sections to put on your resume and win the job.
- Resume Tips and Tricks . This article covers every single practical resume tip you’ll ever need to create a compelling CV.
- Essential Resume Skills . Want to stand out from other applicants? You’ll need to include the right skills on your resume. This article covers the most in-demand skills in 2023.
- Resume Examples . Struggling to write a resume for your field? This article covers resume examples for almost all popular roles in 2023, including jobs in IT, marketing, healthcare, and more.
FAQ on Employment Gaps
Do you still have some questions on everything employment gap-related? Find your answers below!
#1. How long is too long of an employment gap?
Any employment gap on your resume that you can’t explain to recruiters can cast a shadow on your job application.
That said, shorter periods of employment gaps (e.g. time between jobs, illness or injury recovery, etc.) are much more acceptable than, say, 3-year-long gaps in your recent work history.
So, while there is no specific time limit for a super long employment gap, the longer it is, the harder it will be for recruiters to ignore it.
#2. Is an employment gap bad?
That entirely depends on the reason behind your employment gap.
If your employment gap is due to illness, failed business, family emergency, and the like, then an employment gap is definitely not bad! All you need to do is be honest with the recruiters and prove that you’re a trustworthy employee.
That said if your employment gap comes from less socially acceptable reasons, like serving time for a crime or being away in rehab, your employment gap will be more difficult to explain - and, in turn, can be more harmful to your job application.
#3. How do you explain a gap in employment due to being a stay-at-home parent?
Taking time off work to be a stay-at-home parent falls under family-related reasons for an employment gap.
The best way to explain such an employment gap is to write down the exact period you were off, titling it as a “planned career break.” Underneath, you can include one or two sentences on why you took it (e.g. took three years off work to care for my growing children, who are now in elementary school).
On top of that, you can also mention any personal projects or other work-related experiences you had over that period. For example, if you took some online classes or started a personal project, that’s a great way to inform recruiters that you weren’t completely idle during your employment gap.
#4. How do you explain a gap in employment due to COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic cost 114 million people to lose their jobs over 2020. So, if you were infected and quarantined due to COVID-19 (or if you were unlucky and had more severe health issues due to the virus), then note that on your resume as an “illness-related employment gap” or simply due to COVID-19.
In one or two sentences, you can explain you had to take a break from work due to COVID-19 and that you’re now fully recovered and ready to work again.
Similarly, if you were working for a business that got impacted due to COVID-19 (such as an airline company) you can, in one sentence, mention you were laid off due to the impact of the pandemic and mention what you did in the meanwhile to find a job or hone your skills.
#5. Why do employers not like gaps in employment?
Employers don’t like gaps in employment when said gaps are due to criminality, abuse or addiction, or simple laziness. In such a case, employers assume you’re not a reliable employee and that you may demonstrate the same patterns of behavior while working for them.
On the other hand, if there is a reasonable explanation for your employment gap, employers won’t think twice about hiring you, as long as you’re a good fit for the job.
And that’s a wrap! By now, you should know everything about employment gaps and how to tackle them so they don’t hurt your job application.
Before you go, here are the main points covered in this article:
- There are three places where you can explain an employment gap: on your resume, cover letter, and during your job interview.
- To explain an employment gap on a resume, be honest, elaborate on the gap, show that you never stop learning, or use a different resume layout to remove the gap altogether.
- Explain an employment gap on your cover letter by highlighting new skills and offering a valid explanation as to why you took it.
- If you have to explain your employment gap during your interview, rehearse in advance, show confidence, and don’t badmouth your former employer.
- Some valid reasons for an employment gap are family reasons, illnesses, and injuries, taking time to discover yourself or pursue your education, and even a failed business.
More From Forbes
5 ways to handle an employment gap on your resume.
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An employment gap on your resume doesn’t have to be the kiss of death.
One of my clients' most common concerns is that an employment gap will put them at a disadvantage when looking for that next job—especially given the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. A recent LinkedIn survey of 2,000 U.S. adults who became unemployed between March and October 2020 found that 84% of those surveyed believe there is a stigma associated with being out of work. And roughly two-thirds (67%) assume that stigma affects their ability to find a new job. However, another LinkedIn poll of hiring managers found that 96% would hire a candidate who was laid off due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you were laid off or furloughed due to the current economic situation, don’t despair. An employment gap on your résumé doesn’t have to be the kiss of death. Here are some tips to navigate the situation in a positive way:
Be transparent about your employment gap
If you’ve been laid off due to the pandemic, be honest about it. If you lie or try to hide it, recruiters will wonder what else you may be withholding. You also don’t want them to assume you were let go due to lack of job performance or some other reason. If you've been furloughed, you should handle it differently because you're technically still employed. Hari Kolam, CEO of Findem , a recruiting platform, suggests this approach, “Next to your employer, put your start date to present, and then put furloughed in parentheses next to it,” he says. “Your cover letter will provide an opportunity for you to explain what’s driving you to job search while technically furloughed. You’re subject to recall, and that means you’re valued and wanted.”
Fill the employment gap and highlight it
Regardless of why you find yourself in between jobs, you should use that time productively. This approach will keep you busy and help provide valuable talking points when you meet with a recruiter or hiring manager. Some ways to do this include volunteering, taking courses, getting certifications or freelancing. Keep building your professional network and attend virtual events. Then highlight those experiences on your résumé. List them as you would your other jobs, including job title, company name, job description, and employment dates. If you took a class, include it in the education section of your résumé. By filling the employment gap, you’ll show recruiters that you are proactive and resilient.
Provide context in a cover letter or interview
Rather than waste valuable space on your résumé, use the cover letter to explain the reasons behind your employment gap. Because a cover letter has more space than a résumé, there is more opportunity to add context to your situation. The best approach is to be upfront and honest but be concise. If you’re making a career change, the cover letter is the ideal place to explain how your skills and experience translate to the new role. However, keep in mind that some hiring managers don’t read cover letters, or they skim them at best. So, you’ll want to be prepared to provide that same explanation in an interview setting as well.
Best Travel Insurance Companies
Best covid-19 travel insurance plans, consider a different résumé format.
The typical résumé that functions as a timeline may not work in your favor. In that case, don’t hesitate to adopt a hybrid format that is part functional and part chronological. Fill the top half of the résumé with a summary of qualifications and a list of key competencies. Then you can follow that with a chronological list of your work experience. In some cases, it may be best to remove full-time positions from your résumé altogether. The general rule of thumb is to delete jobs from your employment history if they lasted less than three months. An alternative is to briefly mention the position in a career note at the end of your work history section.
Having an employment gap isn't a deal-breaker. But if you let it interfere with your mindset and self-confidence , it could prevent you from landing the job. Focus on highlighting your accomplishments and the valuable skills you bring to the table. Maintain an upbeat attitude and explain your break in a positive way. Practice explaining the reason for the gap before the interview. The more comfortable you are, the more confident the hiring manager will be that you are the right person for the job.
Recruiters recognize that there are millions of outstanding professionals out of work. And the interview process goes both ways. More than ever, workers are looking for flexibility and empathy from their employers. So, if a hiring manager views your employment gap as a negative, it may signal that the company isn’t the right fit. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to move on until you find an employer who understands your worth.
Are you feeling stuck and unfulfilled in your career? Download my free guide: 5 Signs It’s Time to Make a Bold Career Change!
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- Job Search Advice
- How to Explain Gaps in Employment (Resume & Cover Letter)
How to Explain Gaps in Employment (Resume & Cover Letter)
As seen in:
Got gaps in employment? You’re probably terrified . Whatever it was: raising your children, going back to school, traveling—that hiatus must have been for a good reason. But now you’re left with an employment gap on your resume you'll have to explain…
I asked three bestselling career experts for their best employment gap explanations. Turns out, gaps on a resume are not that much of a red flag after all.
This guide will show you:
- Why managers hate employment gaps and how to explain a gap in employment.
- How to do an end-run around resume gaps to avoid writing a bad resume.
- Where to find value in a gap in a resume employers love.
- Good reasons for a gap in employment that managers will understand.
Want to save time and have your resume ready in 5 minutes? Try our resume builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ resume templates and create your resume here .
Sample resume made with our builder— See more resume samples here .
Two formats work great for resume gaps. The combination resume and the functional resume focus on relevant skills. See our guides for gaps in resumes and job hoppers:
- Combination Resume Template: Formatting Guide with Examples
- Functional Resume Template: Formatting Guide with Examples
Now let’s look at advice from career experts for how to explain resume gaps.
How to Explain Gaps in Employment
Why are employment gaps so bad?
Because of what employers fear is hiding in them.
Without explaining gaps in employment, the hiring manager may assume the worst.
According to Orville Pierson, author of The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search , honesty is key.
“People have great imaginations,” says Pierson. “If employers see a gap in employment, they might assume you were incarcerated, an addict, or just plain lazy.”
“That’s the #1 reason not to display any gaps in your resume. The moment you explain the real reason, the imagined worst-case goes away.”
Employment Gap Explanation Example
March 2015–June 2016
I was seriously injured in automobile accident. After several rounds of surgery, I completely recovered and returned to all of my activities, including jogging and softball.
Don’t Fret EVERY Gap in Employment
“You have to be honest,” says Pierson. “But you don’t have to sabotage your own job search by volunteering things that will hurt you.”
- What is an employment gap? Anything less than six months is generally OK. You still need to explain it, but “Job seeking” will cover it.
- Is your resume gap old? Don’t sweat gaps in employment 7-10 years ago. Again, you may need to explain, but an old gap isn’t serious.
- Job h opping isn’t a gap in a resume. Leaving a job in less than a year isn’t gr eat. Sill, more than half of all employers hire job hoppers anyway.
If you’ve got a gap in your resume, it will come up .
When it does, stammering like a high school freshman on a first date is not an option.
So—have an employment gap explanation ready. Then, like a fireman or a warrior in battle, fall back on your training.
- Explain why you’ve got gaps in your resume.
- Reassure the hiring manager why you won’t be doing it again.
- Share the value you picked up along the way.
- Keep your explanation short. Have a finish line so you don’t trail off into embarrassed silence.
Need to know exactly how to explain gaps in employment so you don’t write a bad resume? I’ll give you some surprising answers next.
Steve Dalton, author of The 2-Hour Job Search , has a unique way of patching a gap in employment:
“If I have a job-seeker with a gap in their resume,” says Dalton, “I encourage them to overcome it with a referral.”
Referrals create instant liking.
“Once I like you, you’d basically need to tell me you committed a felony to change my mind.”
To get referrals:
- Find the companies you most want to work for.
- Contact employees at those companies.
- Turn them into advocates by A) having a conversation and B) being a good listener.
“Interested is interesting,” Dalton says. “The #1 factor in charisma is how well you’re perceived to be listening.”
Pro Tip: Are you a job hopper? That’s worse than a resume gap, but it doesn’t mean you’ll write a bad resume. Many managers actually like to hire job hoppers, as this Forbes article explains .
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check . Start building a professional resume template here for free .
When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.
Are you coming out of a gap in your employment and into a new career? Afraid you might face an employment check? See our guide: Career Change Resume: Sample and How-To-Guide
Plus, if you want to check what the best answer to the "Why did you leave your last job?" question is, read our guide: Reasons for Leaving a Job: Best Explanation for This Interview Question
A Solid Plan to Explain Gaps in Employment
Imagine you’re in an interview.
Across the conference table sit three hiring managers.
On the wall behind them is a poster of an eagle that says, Leadership.
Then they ask the dreaded question:
“What’s this job gap here?”
The skin behind your ears begins to burn. Did you write a bad resume?
How should you explain gaps in employment in an interview?
Prove You Won’t Do it Again
A bad hire costs a company $50,000 to $100,000.
One of the hiring manager’s biggest fears? One gap in employment means you may do it again.
“Let’s say you have a resume gap because you were in a bad car accident,” says Pierson. “You must tell them it’s completely resolved. Otherwise they might wonder if you're fully capable of work.”
Find the Value
Were you a ski bum during your gaps in employment? Maybe you did some ski instruction.
“That’s a reputable part-time job,” says Pierson.
Being a stay-at-home mom is respectable work, too. One of Pierson’s clients added value by volunteering at a church where she managed 30 other volunteers. That was real managerial experience and she put it on her resume.
Look for Relevant Achievements In:
- Volunteer Work
- Part Time Work
- Challenges You Faced
Match Your Resume Gap in Employment to the Job Opening
Your employment gap explanation should prove you weren’t idle.
But linking gaps in employment to the job offer is masterful.
A ski bum who did ski instruction is a match for jobs requiring training skills, communication, or experience with children.
The real trick?
Read the job offer carefully. Find the qualities it’s looking for.
Then examine the gap in your resume. Find achievements that prove you have those qualities.
Shorten Your Job Gap Now
What’s better than explaining gaps in employment?
According to Pierson, the best strategy is avoiding having a resume gap in the first place. As soon as you’re unemployed, start consulting or volunteering.
It’s best if it’s related to your primary skills, but any work at all gives additional experience, skills, and references.
Consider a Cover Letter
Do I need a cover letter if I’ve got gaps in my resume?
Some experts say yes.
For example, see this shortened sample cover letter explaining a gap in employment. It explains that the gap won’t repeat. It also lists a relevant achievement.
During the gap in employment from 2014 through 2016, I traveled South America and Africa, kayaking Class V rivers. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that helped me find my big, audacious career goal. I also picked up a unique set of logistics skills I think will fit extremely well with your executive assistant opening...
However, Pierson cautions against explaining unemployment gaps with cover letters. He prefers to save the cover letter for more supplemental information.
David Perry, author of Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters , lays out a great plan to explain gaps in employment. Namely, don’t sweat the employment gap explanation.
“Instead,” says Perry, “use your resume to show: 1. How you can make them money, 2. How you can save them money, 3. How you can boost their efficiency.”
- Google search a company you want to work at + department name + “resume” + “-apply”.
- Click the images tab. You’ll see resumes from people who worked there.
- Contact some of them and have a chat. You’ll get a great sense of the issues in that department.
- Map those issues against your past accomplishments and put them in your resume.
“If you target 10 or 20 companies that way,” says Perry, “you won’t get past #7 without an interview.
What about the resume gap? The hiring manager will barely notice it by then.
Need some tips to write a cover letter that explains your gap in employment? Looking for some letter of explanation samples? See our guide: How to Make a Cover Letter for Any Job in 8 Simple Steps
Four Good Reasons for Employment Gaps
Need some good example reasons for gaps in employment?
Here’s a short list. Make sure to explain why you won’t repeat the gap.
A Failed Business
Did the gaps in your resume come from a failed startup?
A failed business doesn’t mean a bad resume.
In fact, career experts encourage showing a failed business .
Even a failed attempt conveys a whole raft of information about your competency level.
Find achievements from the business that fit the current job. Then add them to your resume as bullet points .
Starting a family—or family troubles—are excellent reasons for gaps in employment.
As with any gap, show closure. The divorce is final. Or you went to counseling and are now in love. Or the kids are now in school.
Most employers know family is important. They’ll be reassured it wasn’t drugs, jail, or something equally as frightening.
Finding Your Way
Did your employment gap come from needing a break?
Hiring managers will generally understand, as long as you can prove you’re done.
In a crucial interview, I had to explain to the Dean of Admissions at Colby College why I’d spent two years out of school.
“You had a C average too,” he said. “What’s my guarantee you won’t do it again?”
My answer? I finally understood I wanted to be a writer. Colby was the perfect next step.
He smiled and shook my hand. Two years later, I graduated with a writing degree, high honors, and a post-graduate fellowship.
Injuries and illnesses explain resume gaps in employment.
Just make sure to show it’s in the past.
You can leave it as, “I had an illness, but I’m 100% recovered with no chance of a relapse.”
In the U.S., employers can’t legally ask questions about an illness-related gap in employment.
Pro Tip: How much worse is job-hopping than an employment history resume gap? There are pros (upward mobility) and cons (a reputation as a quitter) as this RobertHalf survey shows.
Need achievements from your gap in employment to prove your skills? See our guide: Achievements to Include on a Resume (30+ Examples)
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:
See more cover letter templates and start writing.
Here’s a recap of how to explain gaps in employment so they don’t torpedo your job search:
- Come up with an employment gap explanation. Without one, employers will assume the worst. Be honest. An employment check will catch you if you’re not.
- Prove you won’t do it again. Tell your story to show why the resume gap will not recur.
- Find the value. Identify achievements in the gap in employment that fit the job offer like Isotoners.
- Make an end-run around the gap in your resume. Work to get a referral from a company employee. Do some research to find out what the company needs. Then show matching achievements on your resume.
Do you have questions on how to explain gaps in resumes? Not sure how to find the right achievements? Give us a shout in the comments! Let's get you in that dream job.
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How to Explain Employment Gaps on Resumes [25 Tips]
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Sample Resume with Gaps in Employment You Can Copy and Use
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Here are some of our top tips on explaining gaps in your resume, and how to handle common employment gap scenarios.
Explaining and Conquering Employment Gaps on Your Resume
Whether it’s taking voluntary time off to care for children and loved ones or getting laid off or terminated from a job, many job seekers wonder how to handle employment gaps in their resumes.
Fortunately, by being honest, positive, and proactive , you can explain nearly any employment gap in a way that will make hiring managers focus on all your wonderful skills and experience, not the spaces in between.
How to Explain Gaps in Your Resume
Demonstrate continuous learning.
Whether your employment gap is one month or one year, it can’t hurt to demonstrate that you were doing something work-related and keeping your skills fresh while you weren’t fully employed. Volunteering on a board or taking online classes are examples of ways to show that you’re staying current.
Having a resume gap isn’t always a negative, but knowing how to navigate the situation can alleviate any potential anxiety. Your mindset can make all the difference in how it affects you and your chances of landing a new role.
“Keep in mind that having a positive, forward-thinking attitude about your job search will help you make continuous progress toward finding and securing your next position. No matter the reason for your career break, think about the accomplishments and career highlights you do have and leverage that in each of your applications,” shared Toni Frana, a FlexJobs career coach.
Remember that tone also goes a long way in an interview. If you appear upbeat about your career trajectory and explain gaps in employment in a positive way, prospective employers will be much more confident in your ability to excel in the duties of the new position.
Add a “Career Break” Placeholder on Your Resume
It might be helpful to add a new entry in your professional experience section: Career Break. By addressing the gap directly on your resume, you’re helping both the applicant tracking systems and people reading your resume understand why you have a gap.
To do this, you’d add your career break just like any other job, with the job title as Career Break, Planned Career Break, or Professionally Active Career Break, and the dates it occurred.
We’ve created a number of templates and samples for your job search so you can see what this might look like in practice.
Furthermore, one study compared job applicants who disclosed a reason for their work gap to those who did not. It found that candidates who provided reasoning for their work gap on their resume and cover letter received 60% more interviews than those who did not give a reason at all.
Career Gap Resume Example
If you have a gap in your resume, below is an example of how this can be formatted.
Change Your Resume Format
While we recommend that you address the career break up front, you may not be comfortable addressing the gap, or there may not be a brief enough way to describe it in a “Career Break” entry like the one we describe above. In this case, you can consider using a different resume format. FlexJobs’ career coaches recommend using a hybrid resume format if you’re unable to address the career break. If the hybrid format isn’t a fit for you, another option would be a functional resume format .
Types of Employment Gaps and How to Handle Them
Perhaps you wanted more parental leave than your company provided, or maybe you didn’t receive any leave at all. Regardless, you can simply let a potential employer know that you took a parental leave and you’re ready to start working again.
Layoff or Termination
If you’ve been laid off or terminated from your job, carefully and succinctly explain the associated circumstances. Be careful not to blame your former company or show any anger.
The pandemic has had disastrous effects on the job market, with a shocking 14.7% unemployment rate in April 2020—the highest ever seen in the United States since data collection began in 1948. Thankfully, unemployment has been steadily falling since then, but millions of people have been impacted by layoffs, furloughs , and reduced hours in the ensuing months.
The good news is that hiring managers are well aware of how the pandemic has affected workers and will likely understand any associated employment gaps. Even so, it’s important to address the situation in your resume and cover letter by making it clear that your layoff or furlough was pandemic-related and not due to performance issues.
Sometimes a gap in employment occurs from a medical issue or an illness. While you don’t need to go into great detail, you can simply say that you had to take some time off for health and wellbeing, but you’re now ready to tackle a new role.
Similar to the point above, if you’ve taken time away to care for a family member , you can briefly explain the situation and reassure them of your interest in the job.
Staying home to raise children is a common reason for an employment gap for both moms and dads.
“When returning to work after spending some time at home with your child or children, you can briefly address the gap with a sentence in your cover letter, stating that you stepped out of work to spend some time with family and are energized to return to your field,” says Frana. “On your resume, you could add a sentence like this to your profile summary or place it in your work history where the gap actually took place.”
Moving on From Employment Gaps
No matter what types of gaps in your resume you may be dealing with, guidance from an expert career coach can be extremely helpful in getting you ready to apply to your next job.
FlexJobs members receive exclusive access to our career coaching and resume review services at a discounted rate—along with fully vetted and verified remote and flexible jobs in more than 50 career categories. Tour our robust career platform today!
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How to Fill an Employment Gap on Your Resume
- Vadim Revzin
- Sergei Revzin
You don’t need long-term roles to showcase your skills.
How can job candidates — especially those who are unemployed right now — address potential resume gaps and avoid them in the future?
- Try this exercise to get you started: Write down every project you’ve spent time on in between the roles currently listed on your resume or since you’ve been unemployed.
- Now, look at the descriptions of the jobs you’re interested in applying to and see if you can make any connections between your list and what the hiring managers are looking for.
- Ask yourself, “Have I gained any skills that align with the job requirements?”
Your goal is to reframe your experiences in a way that will help employers draw a connection between the role they are trying to fill and the skills you can offer.
Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .
There was once a time when people were expected to — slowly — climb the corporate ladder, work for one employer that paid for their insurance, and stack up a neat series of consecutive job titles on their resume. This narrative, however, is no longer realistic. A predictable, linear career path is now the exception, not the norm.
Today the job market shifts at an incredible pace. Rapid innovation means that new industries are created every year — industries that require nimble job candidates who can learn quickly, adapt, and cater their experience to new roles as they become prevalent.
On top of this, early to mid-career professionals are increasingly finding that there are a lot of directions that they can take their career and not a great deal of certainty as to which path to choose. We surveyed more than 1,000 professionals at School16 who were pursuing non-technical roles in tech; 90% of them expressed interest across at least three completely different disciplines, from sales and product marketing to user experience and design.
The result of this reality is that more people find themselves with shorter stints at several companies listed on their resumes, and sometimes brief employment gaps between opportunities. These gaps have become even more common during the pandemic as a result of layoffs and hiring freezes in several industries.
As markets continue to shift in unpredictable ways, it’s important for job candidates — especially for those of you who are unemployed right now — to understand how to address resume gaps and what you can do to avoid them in the future.
Fill Current Gaps on Your Resume
Lots of job candidates assume that hiring managers favor people who have held several long-term roles. But this is not entirely true. Employers often look for applicants who can illustrate their problem-solving skills and tell stories that prove their capacity to get things done. You can showcase these skills whether or not they are tied to a long-term, 9-to-5 job. To them, your abilities are not limited to the tasks you performed in a role. If presented correctly, you can showcase your experience as a combination of those tasks, as well as initiatives you have participated in and learned from outside of your primary “job.”
That said, there’s a good chance you’re omitting projects or stints from your resume that could boost your job search and fill in some gaps. Maybe you took part in a startup competition during school or helped a friend create a social media campaign for their new Etsy store. If you did (or are doing) something interesting in between jobs, something that’s helping you develop new skills, include it.
Try this exercise to get you started: Write down every project you’ve spent time on in between the roles currently listed on your resume, or since you’ve been unemployed. Now, look at the descriptions of the jobs you’re interested in applying to and see if you can make any connections between your list and what the hiring managers are looking for. Ask yourself, “Have I gained any skills that align with the job requirements?”
For example, let’s say that one of the projects on your list is a podcast that you made during college. You might think that this project has nothing to do with your job search, but if framed right, it could actually add a great deal to your resume. You could highlight tasks like recruiting guests to the show, preparing them for interviews, and making sure they had a positive time during and after the recording. These experiences show communication and production skills that are valued in a variety of industries.
Avoid Future Gaps on Your Resume
If you recently lost your job, and are worried about how long it will take to get hired in today’s market, there are a couple of ways for you to fill anticipated resume gaps while searching for a more permanent role. Our advice: Start a personal project. Being a self-starter is a trait that’s valued by the majority of employers. After all, what’s more impressive than a person who can create something out of nothing?
Your project can take on many forms, but to figure out where you should be spending your time, think about the next job you want to land. What industry is it in? What positions are most exciting to you? What projects can help you build the skills required for those positions?
From there, there are two directions you can go.
Option 1: Venture Out on Your Own
The easiest way to quickly fill a resume gap is to become a creator. Let’s say you recently lost your job as a project manager. You’re still interested in this kind of work, but the wave of layoffs in your sector is causing you concern.
Consider which skills you can leverage while you search for another role. Perhaps your last job provided you with some valuable insights that you could share with other people in your field. You could begin creating content (whether written or on social media) about best practices that companies, employees, and job hunters can use. Within a few months, you may even have enough material to adapt into training modules to share with your contacts.
You may also consider becoming a community organizer or hosting events for people interested in your area of expertise. Today there are plenty of ways to get started — from organizing a virtual meetup to creating industry specific Slack and Facebook groups. Clubhouse, an invitation-only audio chat social networking app, is the newest medium for people interested in starting new communities.
The key is to take your niche — whatever it may be — and use it as a tool to help other people. Whether or not you “succeed,” you now have a project that shows creativity, drive, and initiative to add to your resume. Not to mention, you will expand your network (and your opportunities).
Option 2: Expand Your Network
If you’re not interested in venturing out on your own, and are more focused on landing your next job as soon as possible, you need to get comfortable reaching out to people, often ones you don’t know. Let’s walk through a more specific example:
Let’s say that you are someone who’s interested in a marketing career and you were recently laid off. You hope to join a company as an audience development associate, but most of your experience is in sales. In your last role, you worked with the marketing team occasionally, but only to give them feedback on product and website copy.
What should you do?
As a first step, make a list of all of your friends, family, and acquaintances that run or work at small businesses. Email them offering to help with different marketing activities, like growing their social media following or getting influencers to share their products. If you run out of people that you know, reach out to small brands you find on Instagram for products that resonate with you, and offer to help them reach new audiences by introducing them to communities that you belong to or online groups that you can help them gain access to.
If you do enough outreach, some of these people will engage with you, and pretty soon you’ll have a portfolio of clients that can speak to the value you’re able to bring to a team. Even if you don’t get paid for some of this work, it is still experience that can be referenced on your resume.
This outreach strategy is one that can be applied to almost any industry, and any role.
As workforce dynamics continue to change, savvy hiring managers recognize that tangible skills are acquired through a combination of long-term work experience, self-education, side projects, and freelance work. How you position your background as part of your personal narrative to prospective employers is ultimately under your control. If you’re confident in the value that you can bring to others, your dynamic experience will be seen as the asset that it is.
- VR Vadim Revzin is a Co-Founder of School16 , an alternative education company that develops skills for non-technical roles in tech. He is also a professor of entrepreneurship and management at New York University and co-host of a podcast called The Mentors featuring stories from successful founders and creators. He’s advised hundreds of entrepreneurs, and has been both a founder and leader across several early and growth stage startups.
- SR Sergei Revzin is a Co-Founder at School16 , an education venture that helps professionals acquire skills to break into non-technical careers in tech. Sergei is also a venture investor at the NYU Innovation Venture Fund where he leads the university’s technology investments and is the co-host of The Mentors podcast with his twin brother Vadim. He has mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs all over the country through his work with Venture for America, and has been an early employee and founder at tech companies in NYC and Boston.
How to Handle Gaps in Your Employment History
Smooth out a bumpy employment history with these tried-and-true resume tips.
Not everyone is blessed with a picture-perfect employment history that matches their career goals. With a less-than-stellar economy over the past decade, many professionals find themselves with substantial employment gaps or a string of short-term or unrelated gigs dominating their resumes. Still, others are battling the same gaps because they took time off to raise their families, care for an ailing relative, or overcome a health condition of their own.
If any of these situations apply to you, keep reading. Below are some ways you can pump up your professional resume and supplement your work experience to make a better case for your candidacy.
Highlight unpaid employment history
If you volunteered for a role or took on an unpaid internship that allowed you to build relevant skills or gain industry experience, then these positions deserve a place on your resume employment history. Treat each opportunity as you would a paid job by describing your role and highlighting your major contributions and accomplishments on your resume.
If you stayed at home to raise your children, don't discount the valuable experience you gained while managing the household and caring for your family. Take a look at this piece I wrote for Ladders that explains how you can highlight the core competencies you developed as a stay-at-home parent .
If you're looking for opportunities to help fill your current employment gap, check out resources like Catchafire and Hands On Network for volunteer work and FlexJobs for flexible and telecommuting internships.
Group freelance work together
If you freelanced for a number of different clients over a period of time, consider grouping these experiences together under one position and then combining the dates. When breaking down the position, use the role description section to describe your expertise (i.e. the services you offered). Then, focus each bullet to highlight the work you did for a particular client and the results you achieved. This will give your resume a cleaner look and make you appear less like a job hopper and more like a committed consultant.
If you held a series of temp jobs that were similar in nature, you can apply this same technique to make your resume look less cluttered.
Remove a position
In some instances, it may be best to omit full-time gigs with incredibly short tenures from your resume altogether. The general rule of thumb is to remove full-time jobs from your resume employment history if they lasted less than three months. If you're concerned about deleting the work experience entirely, you have the option to briefly mention this position in a CAREER NOTE at the end of your work history section. Click on the following link to learn more about using career notes on your professional resume .
Invest in professional development
If your recent work experience has little to do with your current job goals, look for opportunities to bolster the skill sets your target employers care about. If you're unsure which of your skills need an extra boost, search your network for individuals who work in the field you're pursuing and ask them. It's amazing how many insights and resume tips you can gain over a lunch or coffee date.
There are many free and low-cost training opportunities available online and in person. Take a look at SkillShare, edX, Coursera, Lynda.com, and CourseHorse, to name a few. Also, use sites like 10times.com to find conferences related to your target field. In addition to being networking goldmines, these types of events often offer certification programs onsite. If you're considering a major career change, you may need to go back to school for more extensive training.
Consider using a different resume format
If it's impossible for you to make your skills and experience shine with the standard resume format, you do have the option to use a functional resume. A functional resume is a different approach to a resume which focuses more on skills than professional experience, which can be helpful for someone who has gaps in their career history.
Proceed with caution though: This type of resume should only be used as a last resort. Recruiters and hiring managers generally dislike the functional resume because of the way it strays from the traditional layout. It can also give the impression that you are attempting to hide something. Perhaps most importantly, applicant tracking systems (ATS) cannot read this type of resume properly, taking you out of the running for many jobs before you've even had your chance. Though a functional resume may seem like a good option, you should only use a one when you've already circumvented the initial gatekeepers at a company.
Keep your employment history consistent
A word to the wise: However you decide to modify your resume, don't forget to edit your LinkedIn profile to match. 93 percent of employers will review your social media profiles before contacting you for a job interview. Make sure the person they see online matches the one they read about on your resume.
Click on the following link for more resume advice .
How are you handling employment gaps on your resume? Get a free resume critique to find out.
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How to Explain Gaps in Employment (With Examples)
300+ Interview Questions Answered.
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Explaining gaps in employment can be intimidating, but there are a couple of effective methods you can use. In this article, I’m going to show you how to explain employment gaps in your interviews, resume and cover letter … with word-for-word examples and sample explanations.
Let’s get started with the interview first…
Explaining Gaps In Employment In Your Interview
Explaining gaps in employment is really just about knowing what reasons are okay to share, and which ones you should tell a white lie about or not share. And then being upfront and comfortable with your answer.
These are all good sample reasons for having a gap in employment:
- Caring for a sick family member
- Caring for a young child
- Any medical or health issue
- Taking time off to relocate and find a job in a new state/city
- Pursuing further education or going back to school
- Pursuing any other type of professional training
- Taking time off to travel, study, work on a solo project, etc.
- Trying to start a business or freelance career
- You were laid off , your former company downsized, etc… and you had trouble finding a job after
- You were actively searching but had trouble finding a job (NOTE: I’ll cover this in detail later but you need to make it sound like you were being selective in your job search and waiting to find the RIGHT fit. That sounds a *lot* better than saying, “I was looking everywhere but couldn’t find a single company that would consider hiring me!”
Once you have your reason prepared… Here are the general steps to follow when explaining gaps in employment in the interview:
- Explain the situation clearly but briefly. They don’t need a ton of personal details. Just give them the core facts.
- Show that the situation has ended or is no longer a factor, so they won’t be worried you’ll have to take another break from working. If they hire you, they want to know you’re 100% ready to work for them.
- Reiterate your interest in their position and bring the focus back onto this job interview and this position.
Examples Of How To Explain Employment Gaps In An Interview:
Sample explanation 1:
I had to resign from my previous position to care for an aging family member. I did this for the past year. Since then, my siblings and I have hired a full-time caregiver so I no longer need to be present, and am fully available to work now and in the future. So I’ve begun job searching and I’m focused on finding a sales supervisor or manager position that will help me advance my career further now.
Sample explanation 2:
I was laid off nine months ago. I started my job search immediately after, and I’m looking for sales supervisor or sales manager positions now to continue advancing my career. I’ve had a number of interviews but haven’t found the right fit yet. One thing I’m looking for is a chance to mentor and train team members, and manage a team directly. I saw that mentioned on the job description for this position… can you tell me more about that?
Two Things To Remember When Answering:
1. You need to sound like an in-demand job candidate…
If you’re explaining a current gap in employment, you need to sound like you’re being selective and that you’re focused on making sure you find the best fit for the long term, rather than just accepting the first job you come across. That’ll make a 6 month gap (or longer) sound a bit better. If you’ve been job hunting during your employment gap, you don’t want it to sound like you haven’t had a single interview in the last few months. That’s never a good idea. If your gap in employment is related to health, travel, a family member’s health, etc…. then it’s fine to say you haven’t had any interviews.
2. Be upfront and honest…
Gaps in employment happen, and good hiring managers will realize this. If you’ve made it into the interview, there’s obviously something they liked on your resume . So when it comes to explaining gaps in employment it’s best to be honest and upfront.
You probably won’t lose out on the job by explaining the situation. You will definitely lose out on the job by lying or seeming like you’re trying to cover something up.
Explaining Gaps In Employment On Your Resume
Okay, maybe you’re still writing your resume or having trouble getting interviews. How do you explain gaps in your employment on your resume so you can GET interviews in the first place?
Here are a few ways you can explain (or hide) gaps in employment:
- List years instead of months for previous positions. (e.g. “2014-2016”). I’ve used this method in the past when I had a couple of small gaps between jobs (by a small gap, I mean 2-3 months maximum). This won’t work if you have too many gaps though, or gaps longer than one year.
- If your gaps are longer or more frequent, consider providing a brief note on the resume listing your reason for the gap in employment. Just list it like any other job. Put your previous positions with the dates you held them. And for your gap, you’d have dates there too, and a one-line explanation (“I took a hiatus from work in order to care for an elderly family member in need”).
If you use these strategies, consider going onto LinkedIn and making the same changes there too. If these options don’t work for you, write a cover letter ! This is a good idea no matter what. In your cover letter, explain what happened in detail and draw their attention to the gap so that you can tell them the full story instead of allowing them to make assumptions (you’re usually better off attacking controversial topics head-on).
That’s how I’d explain gaps in employment on a resume. Also, nobody can tell you with 100% certainty what will work in your industry, with the specific circumstances of your gap in employment (dates, length, reason for the gap, etc.)
So TEST things out. Send out 10 resumes one way, and if nobody’s responding, change something up. If it’s not working, you can’t just keep doing the same things on auto-pilot. That’s how you end up not finding a job .
It’s usually better to be upfront than hide employment gaps
I always give the same resume advice to candidates with gaps in their work history: Be straightforward rather than trying to hide dates or other pieces of information. Hiring managers are usually going to be able to tell if you’re hiding something. Your resume should feature a chronological work history on the first page that includes job titles, company names, key responsibilities for each role, and yes… dates of employment.
No matter what you do, there are some employers out there who won’t like the fact that you have a gap in your employment. That’s okay… Companies like that aren’t worth your time. We’re human. Things happen. And there’s more to life than working nonstop for 40 years. So don’t get discouraged if a few companies say they’re not interested, or just don’t respond. I guarantee those are the same companies you do NOT want to work for anyway because they’re going to have horrible vacation policies, bosses who question you every time you take a sick day, etc.
Note: These Tips and Sample Explanations Will Also Work on Job Applications
Sometimes a job application will say, “please explain any gaps in employment.” The advice resume advice above also work for job applications. Follow the same “rules”, be clear and upfront, and you’ll be fine when applying for jobs.
The one adjustment I’d recommend making on job applications (and cover letters): Be clear and direct, but don’t give too much information. The only goal of your job application is to get you into the interview. If they’re concerned about employment gaps, they can ask more in the interview. And that’s where you should be very honest/open and explain things further. That’s where you can gauge their reactions, decide how much to share based on their responses, etc. You can’t do this in a written explanation.
So, by writing too much info on a job application, you might do more harm than good. It’s better to discuss this type of thing in person, so limit your explanation to 1-2 sentences for each gap in employment on your job applications, cover letters, etc.
Final Advice on How to Explain Gaps in Employment:
Don’t be apologetic about your work history. Taking time off is not something to be ashamed of. Not every company will want to interview you, but some will. Stand by your decisions and choices, present your skills with a straightforward (chronological) resume format , and be ready to answer questions and explain yourself further in the job interview.
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Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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How to List Gaps on a Resume (Without Making It a Big Deal)
Having a gap on your resume isn’t the end of the world — but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. Here’s how to address an employment gap.
2 years ago • 10 min read
There are a few oft-repeated truisms when it comes to resumes and job searching, and one of them is that resume gaps are bad. But that isn’t always the case! If you’ve taken a few months — or even a few years — off between jobs, voluntarily or otherwise, it doesn’t have to be a big deal.
The truth about employment gaps
Why does it matter.
In and of itself, a resume gap doesn’t matter. Hiring managers aren’t deliberately screening out applicants just because they haven’t been working for every single day of their lives. The reason employers notice resume gaps is because they raise questions.
What questions do they raise?
When employers see a resume gap, here’s what they might be wondering:
- Were you fired?
- Did you quit on a whim or with no warning?
- Did you leave without another job lined up?
- Have you left one or more jobs off your resume?
- If any of these were true, why?
Here's a list of common questions recruiters have about employment gaps . These all basically boil down to one thing: Is there a gap on your resume because you’re trying to hide something? If not, you have nothing to worry about.
When are resume gaps not a big deal?
Most resume gaps are unlikely to be a problem. In particular:
If it’s short Employment gaps of less than six months aren’t likely to even stand out. Six months is a fairly normal timeframe for a job search, so you may not even need to explain a shorter gap.
If it’s recent Hiring managers aren’t living in a bubble — they know people are struggling right now. If you were laid off, furloughed, or had trouble finding work over the past year, no reasonable employer is going to hold that against you.
If it’s a one-time occurrence If you only have a single gap on your resume, it’s unlikely to raise red flags the same way a series of gaps might. Like anything else on your resume, context matters — if you have a single gap on your resume that you’re able to explain, most employers won’t care.
If there’s a good reason What is a good reason for an employment gap? Basically, anything non-work-related. If you’ve relocated, had a baby, or taken time off for a family or health emergency, those are all good reasons that have nothing to do with your work performance. A career change could be another good reason, especially if you've used that time to go back to school or update your skill set.
When do they become a problem?
Employment gaps are only likely to become red flags if none of the above is true. If your resume shows a pattern of extended, work-related gaps, you’ll need to explain that in more detail than you otherwise would. This still won’t necessarily be prohibitive, but you’ll have a harder time explaining that you stormed out of your last job without notice than you would explaining taking time off to care for an elderly relative.
How to deal with resume gaps
Here are some examples of common reasons you might have a gap on your resume, and how to deal with it head-on.
Address a career break directly
If you have a single, easy to explain gap in your resume, the best strategy is just to explain it. Your cover letter is a good place for this. You don’t need to spend a whole paragraph justifying it — a sentence or two is usually enough.
You can also list a career break in your resume like this in your work experience. This allows you to go into a little more details about what you did during the hiatus, which is ideal if you’ve achieved something during this time that you’d like to highlight. This should usually only be done if you're currently on a gap.
Appropriate accomplishments could include freelance projects, online courses, or volunteer work. List these the same way you would your regular word experience, by using quantifiable, action-based bullet points. Make sure to include keywords , too — anything that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for can help you get through the initial screening step.
If you’re currently unemployed
If you’re currently in the middle of an employment gap, try asking yourself if there’s anything you can do now to improve yourself professionally. This doesn’t have to be full-time — even doing something for a few hours a week can be worthy of inclusion on your resume. Here are some ideas for activities you can pursue:
- Volunteer . Volunteer work looks good on a resume and is a great way to fill an employment gap.
- Take on freelance, consulting, or other temporary work . Upwork is a great place to start, as is reaching out to previous employers to see if you can do some work on a contract basis.
- Start your own business . This one is often more time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Start your own blog, podcast, or streaming channel, or create and sell your own t-shirts, jewelry, or knit hats. Learning about social media advertising and Google AdSense can not only help you monetize your hobby, it can also teach you some marketable skills.
- Pursue further education . You don’t need to start a full degree program (unless it’s absolutely essential for the job you want) — even a short or online course related to your desired career can help give you a leg up over the competition.
If you were laid off
Being laid off (as opposed to fired) isn’t a red flag for employers. This goes double if you were laid off in the past year or so — hiring managers are well aware of how tough the current job market is.
In the entry for your previous job, you can explicitly state that you were laid off due to COVID-19. If the layoff was caused by something else, like a workplace contraction, you should briefly explain that, too. Use your bullet points to highlight your major accomplishments and projects you were working on prior to the layoff — you want to emphasize that you were a strong performer and that the quality of your work wasn’t the problem. These are some ways to can explain the circumstances of a layoff:
- “As part of a large-scale layoff”
- “The company announced a round of layoffs and my position was eliminated”
- “The entire division was shut down”
- “Due to COVID-19”
If you took a break for personal reasons
Major life changes like having a baby, caring for a family member, relocating interstate or internationally, or personal illness or injury, are all valid reasons for a career gap that are unlikely to raise further questions. The best way to deal with these is to clearly explain the situation without going into too much detail.
If you were caring for a family member, it’s best to keep the entry short. The exception is if you demonstrated transferrable skills that are relevant to your career, like if you’re going into a healthcare or administrative role. In that case, you can add a little more detail about the exact nature of those skills.
If the gap was due to personal injury or illness, the most important thing is to reassure employers that it won’t happen again. You can address that with a short sentence stating that the issue is fully resolved.
You should avoid going into specifics, especially if it’s related to mental health. The sad reality is that some employers still have biases against mental illness, and you aren’t legally required to disclose any of the details.
Show you’ve been keeping busy
If you’ve taken some of our suggestions and kept busy with further education, freelancing, or volunteer work, you’ll definitely want to highlight that on your resume. In fact, if you’ve been doing any of these things, your resume gap might turn out not to be a gap at all.
Freelance or contract work
I f you’ve completed a series of freelance or contract projects , you can list these without cluttering up your resume. Grouping them under a single job heading like this is a good way to do that, and it also allows you to emphasize your most impressive or relevant accomplishments. Here are more tips for how to list short-term or temporary work on your resume .
If you’re not sure if you’ve listed your freelance/contract projects or volunteer work the right way, upload your resume to the tool below . It’s a good way to check if you’ve used your temporary work to address any gaps in your resume.
Not all work experience has to be paid! Volunteering is a great way to fill any gaps in regular employment. Listing volunteer work on your resume can demonstrate your involvement in the community, show a passion for your chosen industry, and generate some genuinely resume-worthy accomplishments.
If you took a break from working full-time to pursue further education, that’s not really a career break — you can just list it in your education section (which should be at the top of your resume if it’s your most recent or relevant experience). Even if you’ve only been taking one or two online or short courses to try to stay relevant, that’s still worthy of inclusion, particularly if you’ve been upskilling in an area relevant to the job you’re applying for.
If you’re not sure which skills you need to brush up on, use the tool below to get a list of skills relevant to the job you're applying for.
Example of a resume that has a career break
If you're struggling to write your own resume from scratch, why not check out our ready-made resume templates ? Here's a sample resume you can use as a starting point when addressing a career break:
Resume gaps do’s and don’ts
- Explain the gap . You can do this with a short sentence or two in your cover letter. Simply explain that you took some time off to raise a child/move overseas/care for a relative (or whatever your reason is) and that you’re eager to return to work full-time.
- Mention what you’ve been doing during your career break . If you’ve spent any time volunteering, pursuing further education, or running a side business, employers will want to hear about it. If you can, use this opportunity to include relevant keywords.
- Optimize your resume . Most of the time, employers fixate on so-called red flags when there are other issues with a resume. Running your resume though a free resume review can help identify any areas for improvement and give personalized suggestions.
- Network . If you can forge a personal connection with the hiring manager — whether through shared connections or reaching out directly — gaps on your resume will start to stand out less.
- Use a resume summary to provide a brief overview of your employment history and highlight your top skills and experience. This can help contextualize any job gaps (but steer clear of mentioning them directly in a resume objective or summary).
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile mirrors your resume and cover letter in addressing any gaps. Don’t leave potential employers or connections wondering what happened.
- Be prepared to answer questions . If you get to the interview stage, you may be asked about anything that stands out on your resume, including a gap. Clearly explain your reasons for taking the break and reassure the hiring manager that it’s unlikely to happen again. If you were dealing with a health issue or other potentially ongoing situation, state that it’s now been resolved.
- Don't try to hide the truth . Don’t stretch out the start and end dates of other jobs to try to cover a gap, or list a job you never held. Lying on your resume is never okay, and it will almost always be caught down the line.
- Don't make a big deal out of it . If you have only a single short or recent gap, you don’t need to call attention to it — most people probably won’t even notice. A study from the Society for Human Resource Management even found that employers increasingly support the need for career break .
- Don't pad out your resume with non-work activities . Things like running a household, planning a wedding, or being a stay-at-home parent might feel like a full-time job, but employers won’t see it the same way you do. Listing your job title as “Family CEO” or “Executive Director of the household” is gimmicky and more likely to harm your credibility than help.
- Don't use a functional resume format . These are often sold as being ideal for people with limited or sketchy work experience, but employers know this and will wonder what you’re trying to hide. Functional resumes don’t include dates of employment or a clear job history and make it impossible to evaluate candidates effectively. Most employers see anything other than a standard chronological resume as an instant red flag, so it'll more likely to get you rejected than owning and explaining any gaps.
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