How to Explain an Employment Gap in a Resume?

Posted in Career Blog

Your employment history is the very foundation that your resume stands on, so when it is anything less than perfect-it can be awfully difficult to explain this in your resume. Take employment gaps, for example. There are times in most all of our lives in which we just don’t have a job. It could be because we were laid off, fired, quit, or are in the process of changing careers. For whatever reason that it may be, this lapse shows up as a negative on our resume-as employers just assume that we were delinquent. That is, unless, you know how to approach this kind of lapse of time in your resume.

Omit Months
One of the best tips when trying to play down the fact that you were out of work during a certain amount of time-and when we say “an amount of time” we mean months-is to list your career history in chronology according to years. So, if you were employed with company a from July 2001 to April 2004 but didn’t start your job at company b until September of 2004; you would list company a as being from 2001-2004 and company b from 2004 to present. This can step over the touchy subject of why you had a gap between jobs, and at least get you in for an interview to discuss what happened in that interim at that point.

Use a Functional Format
A great means of presenting your resume in the best possible light-without direct mention of an employment gap is to use a functional resume format, instead of the more common chronological format. Whereas the standard chronological format will require that you list the dates of your present and previous jobs; a functional format will focus on the skills and qualifications that you gained throughout your general career history.

Use Formatting to Downplay
A more simple way to de-emphasize a time when you were not employed would be to change the font, bolding, and any other format means that might be highlighting this fact. While it is inevitable that an employer will read through your entire resume if they are considering you for a interview, the basic psychology of what you address as significant will most probably downplay the significance in their mind of the gap. Perhaps not, but the more you can detract from its mention, the better.

Nature of Unemployment
There are a whole host of reasons that a person may be absent from the workforce at any one time. For example, they could have spent those months or years working for contract positions or attending to an ailing relative. Both of these reasons would most often be readily accepted, as they have nothing to do with a person’s inability to work well with or for other and/or any other issues of work ethic. This is where the gap should be downplayed in the resume, but should also be explained in the cover letter to clarify.

Explain in the Cover Letter
One of the best things that a candidate can do to better their chances of appearing in a positive light to potential hiring managers is to come out and just explain why they were not working for that gap of time. Of course, it should be addressed in the most positive possible of lights, even if the situation wasn’t necessarily positive; such as, if the person took some time off to care for their grandfather in the hospital-this should be mentioned briefly. While it is crucial to stay as professional as possible, and draw a distinction between the personal and business life; some things cannot be avoided in life, and most all employers will understand this; and grant the gap as acceptable.

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