When you’re applying for a job, you’re naturally trying to position yourself as the ideal candidate. And it probably seems like a long shot that any employer’s ideal candidate has significant gaps in their resume. Gaps in a resume typically indicate either one of two things. First, someone has spent time out of the workforce. Or, the other option is they don’t wish to report the work they were doing. This could be because the nature of the work might seem shameful or disqualifying. Or, it may be because the applicant parted ways on bad terms.
But the truth is, there is no ideal candidate. And employers know that there are often very legitimate reasons for gaps in a resume. They are more open minded than you might think. If you have some gaps in your resume, read on to find out how to overcome them in your job search.
How to Fill In Employment Gaps on Resume
Below are five considerations for how to fill in employment gaps on your resume.
Ways to Make Employment Gaps Less Obvious on a Resume
The best solution for how to fill in employment gaps on a resume is to literally fill in the employment gaps on a resume. Just because you weren’t employed full time somewhere doesn’t necessarily mean you need to leave your job blank. Maybe you volunteered somewhere, or worked part time. If so, be sure to include that information. You can highlight any relevant experience you gained during the gap in employment.
But if you really were out of the workforce, or employed in a situation you’re unable to list on your resume, there are also ways to make the gap less obvious. When you list the time you worked in the positions you have held, just use the years you worked there, instead of the months. This can help to fill in gaps.
Sample Resume with Gaps in Employment
The principle concern when it comes to gaps in a resume is that the applicant might not actually be ready and committed to working full time. That can shy an employer away. But there are many legitimate reasons to take time away from work. Here are a few entries for a sample resume with gaps in employment, briefly and clearly explaining why a gap shouldn’t concern an employer.
“The gap in my employment from June 2016 to April 2017 is due to the fact that I went on a hiatus from work to care for my father as he dealt with serious illness.”
“I was unemployed for six months in 2013 as I helped care for my newborn child.”
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A spotty employment history might suggest to an employer that an applicant doesn’t fit into a workplace, or else is uncommitted to full time employment. It also means that there is a scarcity of previous employers who can speak positively to your work. In order to bridge this gap, you can include referrals on your resume. These should connect employers with respectable people who can speak positively of your character and work ethic. Ideally these people would not be related to you, and would know you in some professional or volunteer capacity.
Understand What the Employer Is Trying to Avoid
Ultimately you can make a lot of less-than-ideal traits work just fine on your resume if you are able to make them part of a narrative an employer wants to hear. But that entails using some empathy in order to understand just what might scare employers away from gaps in a resume.
The main factor that applicants often fail to appreciate is just how much employers want to avoid employee turnover. It slows operations down immensely and eats up a significant amount of time to re-staff and retrain new workers. Employers therefore are concerned that gaps in a resume indicate you won’t be able to commit to employment for very long.
The other main concern employers have is that a gap in a resume indicates some kind of character flaw or irresponsibility. Maybe you have a gap because you were fired from your previous job and didn’t include it? Or maybe it’s because you have no work ethic and didn’t look for employment?
Use a Cover Letter to Provide Off-Setting Reasons
Having gotten into the mind of your future employer, you have the ability to use your cover letter as the best means for how to explain a gap in your resume. If there is a legitimate and commendable reason for the gap in your employment, then be sure to say that directly. If the reason is one that you think might hurt your chances, find a way to signal that you’ve learned and grown from the experience. Without drawing too much attention to the problematic issue, you want to give the sense that you are less likely now to justify the concerns an employer might have.
How to Explain Gap in Resume During Interview
It’s one thing to write an explanation in a cover letter, but that doesn’t necessarily tell you how to account for gaps in a resume during your interview. The interview, when you’re face to face (or at least screen to screen) with a potential employer, is when you’ll really want to know how to explain a gap in a resume. If you can’t sell yourself in person, no cover letter will save you.
The best course is the same as with the cover letter—to present an overall narrative as a reliable and committed employee. You should aim to project honesty and resolute confidence, not shame, obsequiousness, or obfuscation. Part of telling that narrative means helping to fill the gap in the employer’s mind. Even if there was a “negative” reason for the gap, find a way to define that time as a positive in your life. And above all, try to be simple and brief, to move through this part of the interview and into areas where you’re stronger.
Having gaps in a resume can make you feel like a pariah when you’re applying for jobs. It might seem like no one will vouch for you and everyone is suspicious of you. But really, it’s extremely common to have some gaps in your resume. Life brings most people out of the workforce at some point, as it usually brings them back into it. Having gaps in a resume doesn’t have to disqualify you in the eyes of employers. But it does put some more responsibility on you to sell yourself and explain why the gaps should not preclude your hiring. Here at Management Consulted, we work every day with candidates who have gaps on their resumes. Work with us on a resume edit and let us help you tell your story!
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