How Should You Handle Gaps on Your Resume?

A gap in employment is one of the things that many job seekers stress about and fear. When an employer sees an unexplained gap on your resume, he or she may think that you have something to hide or struggle to hold down a job.

Therefore, in order to gain the trust of an employer, it is best that you explain these gaps. Most employers understand that people may not work continuously, but they also want to know what you did during your time off.

So how do you go about explaining gaps on your resume?

1. Explain an extensive gap in your cover letter

If you have an extensive gap between employment, you may want to address it in the cover letter that accompanies your resume. You have more room to address the gap on your cover letter than on your resume, so you can let your prospective employer know the reason why you were out of the workforce, and explain that you are ready to return.

If you have been out of work to go travelling, explain what you have gained from the experience and anything you have learnt that will benefit your career.

You do not need to go into detail about a frustrating job search or a serious illness. Keep it brief. If the gap happened a long time ago, do not mention it at all.

2. Give the section the right title

Rather than calling the section on your resume “Employment History”, call it “Work History” instead. It is because the word “employment” implies that you were paid for what you did. Calling a section “Work History” allows you to include any non-paid work that you did during your employment gap(s). For example, volunteer work or work done for the community. These may not be relevant to your profession, but they are great experience and show strength of character.

3. Use a different date format

In the “Work History” section of your resume, use years but not months. This makes your information more reader-friendly as readers can quickly glance through the section and have an idea of the length of time you spent at each job.

In addition, listing only years may conceal some of the gaps in your work history. For example:

11/2013-04/2014, Project Leader, ABC Company, NY

05/2011-01/2013, Project Leader, XYZ Company, NY

If you eliminate the months, you will eliminate the 10-month gap:

2013-2014, Project Leader, ABC Company, NY

2011-2013, Project Leader, XYZ Company, NY

4. Avoid a strictly chronological resume

Instead of using a strictly chronological resume, use a chrono-functional resume that highlights your job functions and skills. This resume format is especially useful if you have some large gaps in your work history.

Regardless of the reasons and sizes of your employment gaps, you should always maintain an optimistic, positive attitude during your job search, and make sure that your prospective employer knows that you are eager to return to work.