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Confidently Explain Employment Gaps on Your Resume (Examples)

Part 1Understanding Employment Gaps

Employment gaps can happen for various reasons, such as personal issues, health problems, or unexpected layoffs. It’s essential to know that gaps in your career history aren’t necessarily negative. When writing your resume, explaining these gaps in a positive and honest way can help potential employers understand your situation better.

  • One way to address employment gaps is by highlighting your experiences and achievements during those periods. For instance, if you went back to school, mention the degree or certification you earned. Similarly, if you volunteered during your time off, emphasize the skills you developed in that role.
  • Another tactic is to use a functional or skill-based resume format instead of the traditional chronological one. In this approach, you focus on your skills and experiences rather than listing your work history chronologically. By doing so, you can draw attention to your abilities and minimize the spotlight on your employment gaps.
  • When listing dates on your resume, consider using only the years and not the months. This strategy makes transitions between jobs appear smoother and can help to draw less attention to gaps. Besides, some career experts believe that employers are more concerned with your skills and accomplishments than your employment timeline.

In your cover letter, you can address longer gaps proactively by providing context and expressing your enthusiasm for returning to the workforce. Remember to emphasize your relevant skills and the ways you’ve stayed up to date in your industry.

Here’s an example:

During my time off, I decided to pursue my passion for graphic design. I took online courses, honed my skills, and even completed several freelance projects. This experience not only allowed me to explore a new field but also taught me valuable time-management and client-communication techniques. I’m eager to bring these newfound skills and my renewed motivation to a position at your company.

Part 2Types of Employment Gaps

Recognizing the type of employment gap you have is the first step in addressing it effectively. Let’s take a look at some common types of gaps in your work history:

1. Layoffs or downsizing: If you were let go due to company-wide layoffs or downsizing, this is a common situation that hiring managers will understand. Be ready to explain the circumstances in a concise manner.

2. Personal choice: Choosing to take a break to fulfill a personal goal, like traveling, pursuing a hobby, or focusing on family can be explained in a positive way. Be sure to highlight any skills or experiences you gained during this time.

3. Health issues: If you had to take time off due to an illness or medical issue, make sure to explain your recovery and eventual readiness to return to work. There’s no need to disclose private medical information, but assuring the employer that you’re now in good health is key.

4. Going back to school: Showing an investment in your education and development is generally seen as a positive move. Just emphasize how the new knowledge and skills you gained will benefit your future employer.

5. Freelance or contract work: If you’ve been working on a project-by-project basis, your resume may appear to have gaps. Make sure to clarify that you were still active in the job market, and if possible, list notable projects to demonstrate your professional experience.

Part 3Best Practices for Explaining Gaps in Employment

Focus on the Positive

When addressing gaps in your resume, frame your explanation around your strengths and acquired skills. Highlight any relevant experiences and achievements during your time off, like volunteering, freelance work, or professional development courses. Maintain a confident and positive outlook throughout your explanation, keeping the focus on your professional growth.

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Honesty is the Best Policy

Be straightforward and honest when explaining your employment gap. You don’t need to provide every single detail, but giving a clear and concise reason is better than evasion. Employers appreciate sincerity, so avoid creating fictional stories or excuses. Simple explanations such as taking care of a family member, personal health, or traveling the world can suffice.

Show You’ve Been Productive

Demonstrate how you’ve stayed productive during your time away from work. Examples could include learning new skills, earning a certification, or joining a professional organization. Prove that you’ve used your time productively and are now ready to apply your enhanced skillset in the workforce.

Tailor Your Explanation

Consider the specific job you’re applying for and tailor your gap explanation accordingly. Align the skills or experiences you gained during your time off with the requirements of the job position. This demonstrates to the employer that even in your absence, you’ve managed to stay relevant and valuable to the industry.

Part 4How to Explain Short Term Gaps

Skill Building during Short-Term Gaps

When you have short-term gaps in your employment history, it’s helpful to highlight any skills you’ve gained or improved during that time. Employers appreciate candidates who take the initiative to stay productive even when not employed. Include any online courses, certifications, or self-learning projects you’ve completed during the period.

For example, if you had a 3-month gap and completed a coding bootcamp, mention this in your resume or cover letter. Briefly describe how the newly acquired skill can be valuable to the company, demonstrating that you have put your time to good use and are a functional asset.

Example of Explaining Short-Term Gaps

Here’s an example of how to explain a short-term gap in your employment history in the cover letter of your job application:

“Between May and August 2022, I found myself between jobs in the graphic design field. However, I took advantage of this time to further develop my skills and stay updated with the industry’s latest trends. I completed an online course on UX/UI design, and I’m excited to bring these newly acquired skills to your team. This experience has expanded my expertise and can greatly enhance my contributions as a graphic designer.”

By addressing the gap in a positive and honest manner, you show potential employers your ability to adapt, learn, and grow even when facing challenges in your career path.

Part 5How to Explain Long Term Gaps

Mention Relevant Activities during Long-Term Gaps

When addressing long-term gaps in your resume, focus on highlighting any relevant activities you participated in during that period. These might include freelance projects, volunteering, attending workshops or conferences, or taking online courses. By showcasing these efforts, you demonstrate to potential employers that you stayed active and continued to develop your skills despite the gap.

For example, if you took a two-year break to raise a child but completed an online course in project management, you can mention this in your resume or cover letter. This way, you’re emphasizing the transferable skills you acquired during your time off, making your gap less of a concern for recruiters.

Example of Explaining Long-Term Gaps

Here’s an example of how you can craft an explanation for a long-term gap:

“From 2019-2021, I stepped away from the workforce to focus on my family. During this time, I was dedicated to staying current in my industry and strengthening my skills. I completed an online course in project management and volunteered at a local nonprofit, where I managed their social media accounts. These experiences have honed my ability to multitask and communicate effectively, and I’m excited to apply these skills in my next role.”

Part 6Explaining Gaps Due to Personal Reasons

Coping with Health Issues

If you’ve taken time off to deal with health issues, it’s important to be honest but also tactful when addressing this on your resume. You don’t need to reveal specific details about your medical condition. Instead, you can simply state that you took time off for personal health reasons and focus on the skills, qualifications, and accomplishments you’ve achieved during your career.

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Raising a Family

When explaining a gap in your resume due to raising a family, be straightforward, but also highlight any relevant skills or experiences you gained during this time. Emphasize transferable skills, such as time management, organization, and problem-solving, that would be valuable in the workplace. Mention any volunteer work or part-time jobs you had while caring for your family.

Example of Explaining Personal Gaps

Let’s say you took a two-year break to raise your child. On your resume or cover letter, you could write something like:

“From 2020-2022, I took a hiatus from my professional career to focus on raising my child. During this time, I honed my skills in time management, multitasking, and problem-solving, and volunteered as a committee member for my local parent-teacher association. I’m now eager to return to the workforce and utilize these skills in a professional environment.”

Part 7Addressing Gaps Due to Job Searching

If your employment gap was due to a job search, mention it briefly but confidently in your cover letter. You can write something along the lines of, “I took time off to explore new opportunities and ensure that my next role would be a good fit for my skillset and career goals.”

Focus on the positive aspects of your job search. Even if you didn’t have a full-time job during the gap, you likely gained valuable skills and experiences. Highlight volunteer work, freelance projects, or courses you took during your job search. These activities can demonstrate your commitment to self-improvement while reinforcing that you remained active and engaged during your time off.

Part 8How to Address Employment Gaps due to COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused unprecedented disruptions in many industries, leading to substantial employment gaps for many workers. To address this, you can briefly mention the pandemic as the reason for the gap by including a note on your resume or discussing it in your cover letter. Employers are usually understanding of circumstances caused by the pandemic.

Example:

Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a six month gap in my employment history between March 2020 and September 2020. As many businesses were required to shut down or drastically reduce operations during this time, I was temporarily laid off from my role as an administrative assistant. I have stayed active by volunteering in my community and pursuing online courses to develop new skills.

Part 9Dealing with Gaps due to Freelance or Contract Work

Presenting Freelance Work

When you have gaps in your employment history because of freelance or contract work, don’t worry! You can include it on your resume in a way that showcases your skills and experience. You can create a section named “Freelance and Contract Work” on your resume. List the projects you have worked on, the clients you have worked for, and your achievements in these assignments. This way, you demonstrate your relevant skills and show that you have been actively working during those gaps.

Example of Explaining Freelance Gaps

Here’s an example of how to present your freelance work in your resume:

Freelance and Contract Work (2017-2019)

Web Designer / Developer

  • Worked with five clients to design and develop websites, resulting in increased web traffic and improved user experience.
  • Collaborated with cross-functional teams to provide customized web solutions for small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Utilized HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create responsive websites that adapt to different devices and browsers.

In this example, you are emphasizing the skills you gained during your freelance work and presenting them as valuable experiences. Make sure to include any significant accomplishments or projects you completed during this time, so employers can see that you’re a flexible and adaptable professional.

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Part 10Explaining Gaps Due to Sabbatical

Taking a sabbatical can actually be a positive aspect in your professional life. When explaining this gap on your resume, focus on the skills and knowledge you gained during your time off. Emphasize how these experiences contribute to your growth as a professional and can benefit future employers. For instance, if you traveled, learned a new language, or volunteered, mention how such experiences enhanced your creativity, adaptability, or leadership abilities. Furthermore, be honest about your reasons for taking a sabbatical, as transparency will make it easier for potential employers to appreciate your journey.

Example of Explaining Sabbatical Gaps

Here’s an example of how you can frame your sabbatical on a resume’s cover letter:

During my time away from the workforce, I took a six-month sabbatical to explore new cultures and learn a new language. This enriching experience not only allowed me to gain fluency in Spanish but also provided me with valuable insights into different work environments and business practices. With this knowledge, I am confident that I can bring fresh perspectives and increased adaptability to the team at (Company Name).

Remember to tailor your explanation to the specific job you’re applying for and how your sabbatical experiences relate to the role. This way, you can effectively turn your employment gap into a strong selling point.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common reasons for employment gaps?

There are various reasons people may have employment gaps in their career. Some common reasons include layoffs or company downsizing, personal health issues, family caregiving responsibilities, time off for personal growth or travel, and furthering education or professional development.

 

What’s a good way to explain a career break for parenting?

Many people take career breaks for parenting, and it’s perfectly acceptable to explain this in your resume or cover letter. Be honest about your reasons and focus on the skills and experiences you gained during this time, such as time management, multitasking, and problem-solving, which can translate well to your professional life.

Is a short gap in employment considered negative?

A short gap of few months is typically not considered negative by most employers. Job search and transition periods are expected. However, if you have several short gaps, focus on demonstrating consistency in your career and highlighting your skills, experiences, and achievements to minimize any potential concerns.

How can you use a cover letter to address employment gaps?

A cover letter provides an opportunity to address your employment gaps by offering context and explaining the reasons behind those gaps. Briefly discuss the reason for the gap, mention any skills or experiences you gained during that time, and express your enthusiasm for getting back into the workforce. Showcasing your commitment and eagerness to contribute can help alleviate any concerns an employer may have.

Which resume format works best for covering employment gaps?

A functional resume format is often recommended for those with employment gaps, as it emphasizes skills and accomplishments, rather than listing work experience chronologically. Group your skills based on the type of work you’re applying for and include any relevant experiences or projects that showcase those abilities. This format can help shift the focus away from the employment gaps and towards your qualifications and value as a candidate.

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