When you have a job gap on your resume, you might wonder what that gap conveys to potential employers. There are many completely valid reasons for this, and it's fairly common to have one. In fact, three out of five Americans have a job gap or period of unemployment on their resume. But how do you go about explaining gaps in employment?
When you're getting ready for your interview, you may have that career gap on your mind. Let's talk about the reasons for having a period of time without working, and how to explain it in the best way possible.
Gaps in employment example
You might have taken some time off work for many great reasons. Here are some gaps in employment example situations that you might have experienced.
Having a baby
Many people take some time off when they have a baby. You want to be with your little one during their first few months, so maternity and paternity leave are often needed. It could cause a small career gap such as a couple of months, or even a few years if you decide to take extended time off.
Having a child is a time of joy and many people want to enjoy it fully instead of being in an office. Plus, it may take some time to find child care, which may mean that going back to work takes longer. No matter what, hiring managers should be understanding of this employment gap explanation and your needing time away from work.
Taking care of a sick family member
If someone in your family falls ill, they may rely on you to care for them. Depending on how much care they need, you may not be able to work an outside job while doing this. Which creates a job gap in resume due to family.
Hopefully, potential employers will be understanding of this scenario, especially because caring for a loved one who is sick can be quite challenging.
You may have experienced some illness or injury that caused you to take time off for medical reasons. With this, your career gap could be short or long, depending on how much time was needed for recovery. Either way, health is a perfectly acceptable reason to take time off, so you shouldn't worry about explaining gaps in employment.
Taking care of your children
If you don't have daycare or someone else to care for your children, it's very difficult to have a job that requires you to leave the home. In this case, a gap in resume due to family is possible.
Obviously, taking care of your kids comes first, and it's important that employers recognize that you may not have had other options except to stop working for a time.
Experiencing a layoff
Sometimes the job you had suddenly isn't available anymore. Job layoffs can happen for a variety of reasons, including changes in the company and an interest in reducing business spending.
A layoff on your resume may make you nervous, but it's important to remember that layoffs are not the same as being fired. They are due to the company changing things, not your work performance, so be confident with your employment gap explanation.
Tried working in a different industry
Perhaps you got tired of the niche you were working in and decided to give something else a try. You might have started a business or tried to land a job in another profession. A gap in your resume would happen if this choice didn't work out and you weren't able to make an income.
Which is perfectly okay and if anything means that you were willing to branch out and try something different. Mention this when explaining gaps in employment.
Maybe you wanted to see the world, so you saved up and quit your job. It's actually a dream for many people, and it's a fine reason for a career gap.
Your travels probably made you a more well-rounded person and may have even taught you some skills, such as another language. Be sure to bring these things up in interviews, so potential employers can see the benefits of your traveling job gap or employment gap.
Going back to school
You might have decided that you wanted to get a degree or even a masters. Gaining more knowledge in a specific area is great, and may even make you more desirable to employers.
Try to relate your education to the job you're trying to get hired for. And know that education that teaches you life skills, time management, and hard work is always a great thing.
Is it a problem to have a job gap on your resume?
Now that you've gotten a "gaps in employment" example or two, you can see that with the common nature of job gaps, it's completely okay to have one on your resume.
Whatever your reason for taking time off, you can prepare yourself to explain the gap. If you take the time to address your job gap carefully, you will find that you can move back into the workforce more easily.
How to make the gap in your resume less dramatic
When you have a job gap on your resume, you should absolutely be honest and upfront about it. Don’t try to hide a gaping hole from a hiring manager. They will likely figure it out and it could cause problems if you don’t address it right away.
With that said, there are some ways to keep the job gap or employment gap from being too dramatic. These strategies will highlight your work experience without being dishonest about your employment gap explanation.
Use your employment years on your resume when explaining gaps in employment
When you write up a resume, the typical format is to include the dates of employment at past jobs as a month and year. If you have a small job gap, you could adjust this traditional format to only include the year. It's a strategy that can help you tidy up the gap.
For example, let’s say you left a job in June 2020 to help care for an elderly relative and rejoined the workforce in June 2021. Instead of listing the months and the year, you could just include the years.
In other words, you would just state that you left one job in 2020 and took another in 2021. With that, you could easily gloss over a year-long gap.
Here’s what this looks like in practice:
- Job A: June 2020 - June 2021
- Job B: June 2021- Present
- Job A: 2020 - 2021
- Job B: 2021- Present
As you can see, the polished version draws attention away from your yearlong break from employment. Although this is an effective way to polish your resume, you should still be prepared to discuss career gaps in an interview.
Explaining gaps in employment may require a limited resume
A potential employer doesn’t need to know about every single job you’ve ever held. Instead, you could curate a resume to include only a work history that is relevant to your current application.
As an example, let’s say you are applying for a marketing position at a well-known brand. You might not need to include the summer you were a camp counselor. But you’d definitely want to include any experiences remotely related to marketing.
When you create a limited selection of your past jobs, you’ll likely create several job gaps on your resume. This can be especially true if you jumped around in your field.
With many gaps due to other job opportunities, you’ll pull attention away from a particular job gap or employment gap and focus on your relevant skills.
List what you did during the job gap when explaining gaps in employment
Although you might have had a gap in employment, that doesn’t mean that you didn’t gain a new skill set during this time. If you volunteered or freelanced during this time, then consider listing your volunteer or freelance positions.
The skills you learned as a freelancer or any volunteer work are equally valuable. In fact, as a freelancer, you could come in contact with an entirely new skill set.
For example, let’s say you are a freelance journalist. Not only did you continue to hone your craft as a writer, but you also learned how to effectively manage a small business.
Think through anything new that you learned that could be valuable to the new role you're trying to take on. That way the hiring manager will see it as something that provided a benefit for you and, potentially, their company.
Although it can be slightly uncomfortable explaining gaps in employment with a potential employer, it is important to be upfront during your job interview. You should absolutely not lie about your resume gaps. It is better to be honest about your time away from work.
Potential employers want to hire someone that is trustworthy and honest. If you are upfront about the reasons for your job gap, you’ll likely make a good impression. Don’t force the point, but be willing to openly discuss the gap.
When explaining gaps in employment be prepared for questions
Potential employers will likely have questions about your gap. That is normal. As a possible new employee, they want to learn more about you before hiring you.
Don’t take their interest in your job gap in the wrong way. Many interviewers are genuinely curious about your reasons for taking a break from paid employment.
Since you should expect questions, don’t come to the interview without thinking through your periods of unemployment and why they happened. You should be honest about the reason.
Thinking through your reasons before the interview can help to avoid any awkward pauses or stammering as you try to get your story straight. A little bit of forethought can go a long way.
Also, consider your reasons for returning to the workforce. Have a clear answer ready for your interviewer about why you want this job. Be prepared to make a strong case for why you are a good fit for the position, even with a job gap.
Confidence is key
There is a multitude of reasons why you might have taken some time off work. The good news is that there is no right or wrong reason for taking a break from employment.
Maybe you had a gap in resume due to family, took a break to think about your next career step, used the time to recover from burnout, or traveled the world. Whatever your reason for taking time off - be confident that it was the right choice for your life.
As you return to work, discuss your job gap in a positive way. What happened in the past will stay in the past. During the interview process, let your future employer know how you put that time off to good use.
Line up your experience to the current position
It can be easy to get hung up about the hole in your resume. Instead, you should focus on why you are a great candidate for the current position.
Throughout the interview, steer the conversation towards your competency in critical job skills instead of your employment gap explanation.
Instead of focusing on the break, mention how your skills are suited for the job. Don't be shy to share your accolades, accomplishments, and what you excel at doing.
Explaining gaps in employment can be a simple and positive thing
As you prepare for explaining gaps in employment, it is important to be confident and honest. The right employer will be willing to listen and happily accept your explanation. Although not every employer will be gracious about a break in employment, most will be.
As you continue your job search, make sure to check out our top career articles at Clever Girl Finance. These resources can help you as you transition from unemployed to your dream job.