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4 Easy Ways to Explain a Gap in Your Resume

Published on
October 5, 2021

Interviews are undoubtedly a stressful part of the job search process, but having to explain an employment gap on your resume can make them even more nerve-wracking.

The good news is that employment gaps are more common than you think, and there are several ways you can effectively explain them to your potential employer. Keep reading to learn four easy yet effective ways to explain an employment gap in your resume and nail your next interview.

How bad is a gap in your resume?

You may have heard the idea that you should only quit your current job if you have another one lined up. However, times have changed. People are beginning to understand that this mindset contributes to the unrealistic expectation that your life should revolve around work - and not the other way around.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made people realize how valuable their time is, with a record 4 million people quitting their jobs in April 2021 to pursue their passions, learn new skills, or simply take a much-needed break. 

That being said, employment gaps are starting to not matter as much to employers like they may have before. What does matter, however, is how you explain the gap to them.

Why do employers care about gaps in your resume?

So why do employers even care about gaps in your resume? While it is certainly okay to have a gap in your resume, it is still the employer's responsibility to look at those gaps and determine what they could mean about you as a potential employee.

Employers spend a lot of time, money, and resources interviewing you, hiring you, onboarding you, and training you. That being said, they risk wasting those resources if you quit soon after they hire you. Luckily, there are many ways you can explain an employment gap in your resume and even use it to stand out from the rest of the competition.

How to explain a gap in your resume

1. Be honest.

Never lie about an employment gap in your resume by changing dates to make it appear shorter or by trying to hide it altogether. Employers can verify your career history, so lying is a sure way to lose the opportunity or potentially get fired later on. 

If you have a significant employment gap on your resume, you can use your cover letter to explain the situation in further detail. In a couple of sentences, briefly explain what caused the employment gap and how you used that time for your personal growth and development. Avoid getting into any personal details. You can then use the rest of the cover letter to reiterate your interest in the position and why you're a great fit for it. 

Addressing the employment gap in your cover letter allows you to be transparent at the very beginning of the hiring process. You also appear more honest and trustworthy - which is a great way to stand out from the rest of the competition.

2. Use a different resume format.

You can also distract from your employment gap with a smartly formatted resume. You can do this in several ways:

  • Consider using a hybrid format. In other words, you can fill the top half of your resume with an eye-catching summary, your key qualifications, and your accomplishments. Then you can add a chronological list of your employment history. This will help minimize the gaps in your employment history and draw the reader's focus to your valuable skills instead.
  • Use different font sizes and headers to draw the reader's attention away from what you don't want them to focus on.
  • List the reason for a long employment gap as one of your work histories. For example, did you use that time to learn a new skill, be a stay-at-home parent, or perhaps do some freelance work? By highlighting it as a job, you're showing your potential employer that you used this time off with purpose.
  • Highlight your accomplishments during your time away from work. Just make sure that they are somewhat related to the job you're applying for.

Including your employment gap on your resume not only demonstrates your honesty, but it's also an excellent opportunity to show off your creativity - which can help you stand out to the employer as well.

3. Be prepared to talk about the gap in your interview.

If you have a significant employment gap in your resume, be prepared for it to come up during the interview. One helpful thing to remember is that employment gaps are more common than you think, and you most certainly are not alone in having one. It's also important to understand that employers only tend to care about recent unemployment gaps, so don't stress about every single one. Employers aren't going to be worried about unemployment gaps that happened several years ago.

You can prepare for this question by creating talking points that will help you answer it smoothly. Practice this scenario a few times with a friend or family member until you feel comfortable. Again, remember not to overshare - you don't need to get into any personal details. If you go into the interview unprepared, having this question sprung on you might cause you to panic and share more than you need to, which can make for an uncomfortable interview experience for both of you.

4. Stay positive.

Emphasizing the positives that came from your employment gap is essential. When asked about a gap in your resume, answer honestly and highlight what you learned during that time. For example, consider you had quit a job you disliked without a backup plan. You would avoid speaking negatively about your former employer and instead emphasize what you learned, what skills you gained, and how those skills and experiences will help you succeed with this new position. Most importantly, make sure you don't dwell on the gap. Positively address it, make it clear that it's in the past, and move on. 

There are many reasons you may have an employment gap, but by being honest and highlighting the positives to your potential employer, you're sure to make a solid first impression.

If you're looking for a place to not only organize and manage your job search but also gain valuable information that will help you land your perfect job, Teal’s 100% free job searching platform is the answer you've been looking for. Try our free job searching platform today.

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