Dealing with an Employment Gap on Your Resume
Over the course of your career, you might experience some employment gaps which can have an effect on your resume. There are many reasons for such gaps, including relocation, family issues, an illness, or going back to college. Whichever the case, it’s important to address employment gaps as you start applying for jobs and interviewing. Here’s how to deal with an employment gap in your resume.
Omit Outdated Resume Gaps
After some time, you’ll gain a certain amount of experience in your field, which might cause your resume to become too long. This can be an advantage if you had an experience gap somewhere along the line. This particular tactic works best for those who have several years of experience in which they changed jobs multiple times or had some early work experience that doesn’t necessarily relate to their career.
Let’s say your first job was ten years ago, and you worked as a retail store associate at a popular chain. Then, you stopped working for a year to finish college and shortly thereafter landed your first job in the field of your choice, going on to change jobs three more times in the subsequent years. In this scenario you can ignore the retail store associate experience along with the long gap, and start with the very first job you got out of college.
Use a Different Resume Format
Another way to deal with having a gap in your resume is to cleverly select a resume format that allows you to sidestep the gap altogether. In order to do this, choose a format that focuses on your skills and achievements, rather than your chronological work experience. The functional resume format is a great choice for those who have less work experience or who want to avoid an experience gap. For more information on resume formats, check out our previous blog here.
Always remember that honesty is the best policy. If you decide to go this route, it’s still possible for an interviewer or hiring manager to detect an experience gap, and if they ask about it, don’t lie to them or mislead them. When using this tactic, it’s more about shifting emphasis away from the gap and onto your skills and achievements, not outright excluding it.
If you ever find yourself in between jobs, do your best to stay busy—a resume gap can be used to your advantage if you’re smart about it. For example, let’s say you left your previous employer before you found a new job, and you’re taking your time with planning your next move. During this interim period, you could attend networking events, take online classes relevant to your field, or work on a personal project such as a blog or website.
Now that you’ve got all those extra activities under your belt, it’s time to put them to use. You can notate this time period on your resume just as you would include work experience. Include the dates, and add any relevant events you attended, or whether you took any classes while you were looking for your next job. This will show potential employers that despite the gap in your resume, you remained motivated to learn and improve.
Write a Cover Letter
Cover letters are great for providing potential employers with additional information about your education, work experience, motivations, and personality—but wait, that’s not all! Your cover letter also gives you the chance to explain a resume gap with more detail. The best place to include information about an experience gap on your cover letter is within the body paragraph.
There are lots of reasons for having an experience gap, so whether it was because you were traveling abroad, tending to a family member with an illness, or recovering from a surgical procedure, you’ll have to provide a certain amount of detail. In other words, don’t say “I traveled for six months between [date] and [date],” say “From [date] to [date], I achieved my goal of backpacking through Europe.” This will show the hiring manager that there was a reason for such a gap, and that you’re goal-oriented.
First and foremost, you should always conduct practice interviews. We talk about this a lot, and for good reason. Practice interviews will help you get comfortable talking about your education, work experience, and skills. Similarly, practice interviews will make you a pro at explaining a gap in your resume. When you’re ready to start interviewing, find a willing practice partner and get to it!
While addressing a resume gap on an interview, always make sure you speak of previous employers in a positive way. It’s never a good idea to make negative comments about your last job or boss, and if you do, there’s a high probability that you won’t get a call back. It’s also worth mentioning that if you can explain a resume gap with confidence, it will go a long way during an interview. Remember, be positive, smile, and sit up straight—you will exude confidence.
Having an employment gap in your resume isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it might even be an advantage to you if you’ve used the time spent during an employment gap wisely. It’s always important to be up front and honest with any potential employers, so make sure you address any gaps during the application and interview process. With a little creative thinking, you could greatly reduce any potential negative effects an employment gap might have.