Key Takeaways:

  • Be honest about gaps in your work history to avoid inconsistencies and other red flags.
  • Highlight what you accomplished during periods of unemployment or breaks, such as volunteering or caregiving, and list them on your resume just like a paying job.
  • Explain employment gaps in your cover letter, summarize the reasons for any hiatus, and keep your resume brief and to the point.

f you have gaps in your resume, it's natural to be worried about how to explain them.

The truth is that a lot of people take breaks from their careers for various reasons and these reasons usually have nothing to do with a person’s ability to perform the job at hand.

Fortunately, there are some ways you can help employers understand even the most complicated periods on your professional timeline, here's how:

1. Be honest.

When trying to present yourself in the best light possible, it can tempting to conceal gaps in your work history. But lying on your resume is never a good idea

Because hiring managers review so many resumes, they’re skilled at spotting inconsistencies and other red flags. Many verify work history—and may even perform background checks.

If you lie about the dates of your employment, sooner or later it's likely that someone will find out—and you could lose your job over it. Honesty is always a better option.

2. Highlight what you did accomplish while out of work.

If you were raising children, volunteering, or caregiving, think about how you could incorporate these experiences into your resume. What skills did you gain?

These roles show how you stayed active and engaged even though you weren’t formally in the workplace. These roles could be listed on your resume just like a paying job. Also, any degrees completed or courses taken can be noted in the Education section of your resume. For example:

  • You volunteered for your community food bank.
  • You went back to finish your degree.
  • You brushed up on your technology skills by taking a course.
  • You were the sole caregiver to an ailing family member.
  • You pursued a side project important to you.
  • You traveled extensively and explored new cultures (Source: NCOA).

3. Explain employment gaps in your cover letter. 

Generally, there's no place on your resume to detail a long period of unemployment. In this case, you can use the cover letter to explain why you were out of work for an extended period.

Address gaps in your work history through a cover letter. Summarize the reasons for any hiatus—one or two sentences will suffice. Keep your resume brief and to the point, so that hiring managers can clearly see why you’re right for a job.

4. Downplay smaller gaps.

If you were out of the workforce for years, this is hard to cover up. But you don't have to shine a spotlight on every gap.

For example, if you were unemployed for a year or less, due to various reasons, you can soften the gap by leaving out the month. When you list your employment dates, you can still be transparent about employment but you don't have to emphasize the shorter breaks. Here is an example: "Customer Service Associate, 2021 to 2022."

Another pro tip: using bold or a smaller font can draw attention to employment dates. Keep this in mind when formatting your resume. Avoid drawing attention to these areas!

5. Consider any transferable skills.

When thinking about your resume, it is important to consider any transferable skills or perspectives you gained during your gaps and how these experiences or skills make you a strong candidate for the job.

For example, maybe in your time away from the workforce you managed the event committee at your church. You probably gained valuable leadership skills.

Don't hesitate to think out side of the box when putting together your resume!

With the job market at an all-time high, and new opportunities popping up every day, there's never been a better time to rejoin the workforce.

You might be older than applicants, but don't let that stop you from applying for positions that are right for your qualifications. With these five tips for explaining gaps in your resume, you'll be well equipped with everything you need to succeed.

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Sep 1, 2022
Business & Jobs