Resume Overview: Tips for Explaining Gaps in Employment

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Jun 11, 2019

Jun 11, 2019 • by Rebecca Smith

Gaps in employment are more common than you might think. People take time off of work for many different things, such as caring for a new baby, health reasons, caring for aging or ill family members, or for reasons outside their control, such as a layoff. 

You can't go back and change the past if you have gaps in your employment history, but you can take some steps to make sure they don't hurt you during your job search. 

Keep reading for some tips for explaining gaps in your employment with ease. 

Strategies for Explaining Gaps in Your Employment

Gaps in employment are often a red flag for employers. They may automatically think that you're a criminal, got fired, or have been out of the workforce so long that you're out of touch. 

Instead of getting discouraged by how you think potential employers may perceive you, get a plan in place to explain these gaps. Whether you're returning to the workforce in the same field that you were in previously or becoming certified in a new career altogether, you'll need to think about how to explain these gaps. 

Read more here about certifications and skills that can help you in your search.

Be Honest 

No matter the reason, you need to be honest about the gap in employment. If you're upfront about the reason, the potential employer can decide during an interview if you're right for them. If you're dishonest, though, and they find out after they already hire you, you stand to lose your job. 

Being honest and allowing an employer to make a decision based on that is always the right course of action. 

Be Prepared

It's definitely going to come up in an interview, so it's best to be prepared to answer questions about employment gaps. Have a plan ahead of time so you're not fumbling for an answer. 

Be clear about why the gap is there, but be concise. Your interviewers don't need your life story or every detail about your stint as a stay-at-home-parent or taking care of an ill family member.

Once you explain, be clear that the reason for the gap is no longer an issue (e.g., your children are now in school) and that you are highly interested in the position/that company. Bring the conversation back to what you bring to the employer and your interest in the position. 

Explaining Employment Gaps on Your Resume

You can also explain employment gaps on your resume, which makes the in-person conversation during an interview less awkward.

If your gaps were short (e.g., a few months), list your employment experience in years, rather than exacts months. For example, you might list previous positions from 2012-2014 and 2014-2016 rather than April 2012 to April 2014 and July 2014 to July 2016.

Potential employers don't necessarily need to know that you had a several-month employment gap in 2014. 

You can also include a short description or note for the gap in employment on your resume, particularly if it is longer. You can note that you were on leave to care for a new child, ailing family member, or were let go during company-wide downsizing. 

Final Thoughts 

Being prepared and being honest are your two best tools for explaining gaps in your employment history. It's best to just put it out there rather than avoiding the elephant in the room. 

If you've been out of the workforce for a while, check out some of our other resources for crafting an effective resume, interviewing, and finding that dream job.