Dos & Don’ts of Explaining Employment Gaps in Your Resume

There is a stigma around employment gaps in the recruitment industry. Jobseekers are apprehensive about them and employers automatically assume the worst. But the thing is, job gaps are quite reasonable. No one ever has a solid plan in life, even when it is all planned out. 

Unforeseen circumstances can come up at any time and derail those plans. There should not be any prejudice against candidates just because there is a gap in their resume, nor should candidates be dishonest about any breaks they took. The more job gaps are made acceptable, the more open the talent pool will become to recruiters.

Valid Employment Gaps in Your Resume

It may sound polarizing but even a conviction or rehab break should not be prejudiced again without knowing the full details of the person’s life. For all we know, a person could have been in adverse situations that pushed them to crime or drugs. The fact that that part of their life is over and they are trying to improve and push ahead should be taken as a good sign. Everyone deserves a chance and so do people usually discriminated against in workplaces.

Of course, there will be very few people who will have gaps due to such extreme causes. Most gaps are more reasonable and easily accepted. Some such reasons are:

  • Taking care of a family member or starting a family
  • Injury or illnesses that had an extended recuperation period
  • Taking a break from corporate life for self-discovery or self-recovery from burnouts 
  • Completing education, taking some special training, upskilling or reskilling
  • Changing your career path
  • Resigning due to differences in fundamental principles with company values
  • Being laid off due to company insolvency or downsizing
  • Starting your own business

These are only the most common causes. Feel free to let recruiters know what your reason for the job gap was without any hesitation.

Tips to Explain Employment Gaps Without Jeopardizing Your Chances

Letting your recruiters know why there is a gap in your resume is an art. Done tackily, it can cost you the job. Done artfully, it can push you several places up in the shortlist. Without exaggeration, it can even earn you the job. Just remember the following tips when explaining that much-feared hiatus.

1. Be Honest

This is perhaps the most important point to impress in your mind. Never ever try to be shady. Employers have been recruiting for years. They will smell something fishy at the first look. In this age of social media and publicizing private information, a little digging will throw up what really happened. And then, the recruiters will instantly perceive you as an inherently dodgy, dishonest person. Rather, be upfront about what happened. This will not leave any room for imagination and they will value it.

2. Ignore Small or Old Gaps

Not every gap is a gap. This may sound paradoxical but it is true. A one-month gap or a gap you took over two decades ago will not even register on the radars of employers. Instead of being clinical over them, brush over them briefly with small labels like “medical leave” or “seeking a new job”. If you left a job on the first week of a month and got the next in the first week of the following month, simply write it as 

“Job X: March 2016 – June 2019

Job Y: July 2019 – Present”

instead of

“Job X: 21st March 2016 – 6th June 2019

Job Y: 2nd July 2019 – Present”

3. Do Not Try to be Oversmart with Dates

The above tip is fine only if the gap is small, very old, or at the very beginning of your career when you were job-hopping to see what suits you. But if the gap is long, as in one year or more, if it is new, or if it is too frequent, refrain from doing this. Many people will simply use only the years to get away with it, but they always get caught. Be honest about what happened in that period, mention it briefly, and assure the employers that the matter is solved.

4. Use Skill-Focused Resume Format

Even the resume format can determine how your job gap is viewed. Instead of using a format that highlights your specific jobs, use one that draws attention to your skills and talent that you are bringing to the table. That will make the gap less glaring.

5. Add Value to Your Gap

Instead of just being blunt with the gap, mold the conversation with how you used the gap to acquire skills that will align perfectly with the job role. Say, you did volunteer work during that period. Tell your hirers that it taught you important lessons in people and resource management. Maybe you took a yoga vacation. Then tell your recruiters that you are now more in sync with yourself, can focus better, optimize your time well, and handle adverse situations calmly.

6. Do Not Overexplain

Overexplaining has many disadvantages. You might start stuttering, mess up facts, and end up looking like a fool. Being too verbose is a sign of nervousness. You might also reveal more than you intended. Stay brief, confident, and crystal-clear.

7. Choose the Skills Earned According to Company’s Demands

When you are looking to explain what skills you earned in that gap that added value to it, choose ones that the job role needs. Using the past example, if you did volunteer work in your gap, then talk about the resource management skills you learned for a sales post but talk about the people skills you earned for an HR post.

8. Give a Resolution

Most causes for employment gaps are acceptable only if the matter that caused the gap in the first place has been resolved. If you had an illness or a family member did, let the recruiter know you are fully recovered or the family member is under a full-time caregiver or in a nursing home. If you earned a degree, show them the certificate to assure them that you have completed it. The hirers should understand you are there full-time.

9. Mention Alternate Employments

When a full-time working person takes a break, it is expected they are doing something productive during that time that will contribute to the job they are seeking. Of course, family and medical causes are exempted here. Mention any volunteer work, freelancing, training, consulting, or part-time jobs you did during this time. Your hirers will be assured that you are not a lazy person.

10. Provide a Cover Letter

A cover letter is a great way to sway the hirers the way you want. It gives you a good chance to explain the reason for the gap, resolve it, and mention how it will help you in the job you are applying to. The emotions lost in the resume can be made up for here.

11. Study Success Story CVs

You can always search the Internet for examples of CVs that excellently explain employment gaps, the writer of which ended up successfully bagging the job. They can teach you well how to go about informing recruiters about your job gap.

Ending Note

Today, the demand for agile workforces and normalization of employment gaps has resulted in recruiters becoming much more flexible in this aspect. As long as the job seeker is being honest and successfully explaining how the gap will help him ace his role at the company, there is no reason to be scared of showing an employment gap in the resume.

Chinkey Saini

Chinkey Saini

Business Strategist and Client Consultant with a panoptic experience of working in the online media & digital marketing industry.