The Best Way To Explain A Job Gap On Your Resume

How to explain job gap

When you have a job gap on your resume, you might wonder what that gap conveys to potential employers.

You may have taken some time off due to due medical reasons, taking care of your family, trying your hand at a different industry, spent some time traveling, or decided to go back to school. Each of those reasons, plus many more, are completely valid reasons for an employment gap.

You should know that you aren’t the only job seeker with a gap in their resume. In fact, three out of five Americans have a job gap or period of unemployment on their resume.

With the common nature of job gaps, it is important to understand that it is completely okay to have one on your resume. Whatever your reason for taking time off, you can prepare yourself to address 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.

In this article, learn the best ways to explain any job gaps on your resume while you find a new job.

How to make the gap 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 potential employer. They will likely figure it out eventually 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 from being too dramatic. These strategies will highlight your work experience without being dishonest about your employment gap.

Use your employment years on your resume

When you write up a resume, the typical format is to include the range 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.  This strategy can help you tidy up the gap.

For example, let’s say you left a job in June 2018 to help care for a sick relative and rejoined the workforce in June 2019. 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 2018 and took another in 2019. With that, you could easily gloss over a year-long gap.

Here’s what this looks like in practice:

Traditional option

  • Job A: June 2017 - June 2018
  • Job B: June 2019- Present

Polished version

  • Job A: 2017 -  2018
  • Job B: 2019- 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 the gap in an interview.

Create 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 past jobs that are relevant to your current application.

For example, let’s say you are applying to 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 and focus on your relevant skills.

List what you did during the job gap 

Although you might have had a gap in employment, that doesn’t mean that you didn’t gain any skills 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 volunteer 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 also learn how to effectively manage a small business.

Be upfront

Although it can be slightly uncomfortable to talk about your job gap with a potential employer, it is important to be upfront. You should absolutely not lie about your job gap. 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.

Prepare for questions

Potential employers will likely have questions about your gap. That is normal. As a potential 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 gap and why it happened. You should be honest about the reason. But 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 raised a beautiful 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, be confident about your job gap. What happened in the past will stay in the past. 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 focusing on the break, talk about how your skills are suited for the job. Don't be shy to share your accolades, accomplishments, and what you excel at doing.

The bottom line

As you prepare to explain a job gap, 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 the top career blogs on the internet. These resources can help you as you transition from unemployed to your dream job.

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