How to Explain Employment Gaps in Your Resume

If you have gaps in your resume, don’t get dejected – you are not alone. Millions of people have gaps in their work history and experience.  Layoffs, needing to take time off to care for a sick loved one, leaving the job market to raise children or even getting fired are all common experiences of the modern worker.  No matter the reason for the gaps, however, people often become nervous at the thought of discussing their history in an interview.

If you’re well-prepared, however, you can explain those gaps in your resume and land the job you want.

First, Update Your Resume

A chronological resume can call glaring attention to gaps in work history.  Create a “Relevant Skills” section at the very top of your resume and list all of the most important skills you have for the job you are applying to. Next, rework your work history section.  Instead of listing your jobs in order from newest to oldest, order that experience in terms of relevancy, as well.

If you took on temporary, seasonal or contract work during gaps in full-time employment, make it clear that those assignments were short-term, so you don’t look like a job hopper.  Instead of listing your temporary job title as “Administrative Assistant,” call yourself a “Temporary Administrative Assistant.” If you worked with a staffing firm to land short-term assignments, list the staffing agency as your employer and then bullet out each job under the main heading, to make it clear that you were working steadily for that agency.

Fill In the Gaps

Hiring managers are likely to ask how you spent time in between jobs.  This is where some job seekers stumble. If you took time off to care for small children, look after a sick loved one, recover from your own illness, or continued your education full-time, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. Speak matter-of-factly about your situation and don’t apologize.  Discuss the ways in which that decision and that time made you a stronger, more capable candidate.

If you were laid off, if you were fired, or if you quit, you also have no reason to be embarrassed. These things happen all the time. However, you will want to demonstrate that you spent your in-between time wisely. Talk about any classes you took, certifications you achieved, skilled you enhanced, etc. Also, talk about any volunteer work you may have engaged in during that time.

No matter the reason why you have gaps in your resume, be upfront with your interviewer. If you are vague or evasive, it will raise a red flag for the hiring manager. And no matter how tempting it may be, don’t lie. Honesty is always the best policy. Remember, you aren’t the first person to have gaps in your resume, and you won’t be the last. If you’re well-prepared to talk about it, it won’t hurt you in the long run.

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