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How to Explain an Employment Gap on Your Resume

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Applying to jobs after a period of unemployment can be intimidating. The application pool is already so competitive across the board, you’re worried this might be a red flag for potential employers. You can let out a sigh of relief because a gap in employment doesn’t have to be catastrophic to your application.

Taking time off from one time to another is normal. Maybe you were caring for a child or relative or you went back to school. Maybe you simply decided to travel and see the world or focus on a side project. No matter why you left the traditional world of employment, you don’t have to write off your hiring chances. Keep reading for a guide to explaining an employment gap on your resume!

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First, decide if you need to mention the gap on your resume.

Depending on the gap in employment, you might not need to mention it on your resume at all. If the gap in your employment was in the past and you’ve been employed since it doesn’t need to be on your resume. Remember, you don’t have to include your entire professional history on your resume. It’s commonplace to include only the most recent and relevant information. While you shouldn’t lie on your resume, you shouldn’t feel pressured to put your entire life history either. If your gap in employment was recent, you probably do need to provide some sort of explanation on your resume. Let’s talk about how to do that without burning any bridges!

Hide small gaps by listing years instead of months.

If you only took a small gap in employment, you might be able to get away with just listing the years on your resume. There are no hard and fast rules for displaying employment dates on your resume. If you’ve held your previous positions for over a year, it’s perfectly acceptable to list your dates of employment by the year. For instance, if you were employed at your last company for two years, you can list it as 2016 – 2018 instead of March 2016 – January 2018. While this is perfectly acceptable on a resume, you should be prepared to discuss any minor gaps in employment during the interview if addressed directly.

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Include other experience on your resume.

Just because you weren’t traditionally employed doesn’t mean your experience doesn’t matter. If you took time off to volunteer, freelance, consult, or more, this might be just what you need to fill gaps in your resume. You can list this experience as you would any professional position on your resume. Did you take time off to go back to school? Add in a section for your recent education and certifications. If anything these additions will be a bonus on your resume!

Utilize your cover letter.

Finally, no matter whether you’re applying for Internal Medicine Jobs by HospitalRecruiting.com or retail jobs on Indeed, you should always include a cover letter. This is your chance to introduce yourself to hiring managers and show that you’re a good fit for this position you’re applying for. It’s normal to explain any gaps in employment in your cover letter, particularly if they are large or noticeable gaps that would stand out on a resume.

Less is more when it comes to your cover letter! This is not the time to delve deep into your life story, but you should cover what you did in your time off and why it was necessary. Be clear in your dedication to returning to your field and your excitement for this position. A simple explanation along the lines of “I took brief time off to care for a sick relative, but I am excited to return to the industry” is more than acceptable.

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Be prepared to discuss any gaps during the interview.

The interview is your chance to make an impression and show you’re the best fit for a position. If you have a gap in employment, even if it’s not apparent on your resume, you should be prepared to discuss it during the interview. Practice your answer in advance so you know exactly what you’ll say if the topic comes up.

Be clear that this break in employment was temporary, and always have strong professional recommendations. If you did any constructive, beneficial activities during your time off, share these during the interview! Ultimately, be positive and excited during the interview. Show the interviewer you’re serious about this position and that you’re a strong candidate!

A gap in your resume doesn’t mean you can’t land a job in your field. If you did anything productive during your break in employment like freelance or go back to school, you might return with a fresh, strong perspective. Be honest with employers, but also don’t be afraid to talk yourself up. You know you’re a great fit for this position, so let it show!

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Updated: June 3, 2018 — 6:41 am

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