How to Explain a Gap on Your Résumé

Posted on Apr 10th, 2017 | Career, College

You’ve got great experience, and your skill set has only improved over time. Perhaps you’ve even won an award or two. There’s just one glaring problem with your resume: that gap in employment.

Though you wouldn’t be the first person whose resume has a gap, yours could raise a red flag for employers. Here’s how to present your gap in the best possible light:

If You Chose to Take a Break From the Workforce
Whether you took time off to travel, stay home with a baby or simply reassess your career and priorities, be sure to explain that your decision to take a break was both calculated and responsible. If, for example, you held a job for three years, saved your money, and then took six months off to backpack through Europe, you can present your gap as a major accomplishment that you worked hard to achieve.

If You Took Time Off Due to Personal Health or Family Issues
Though you don’t have to go into too many details, you should make it clear that your employment gap is there for a reason. There’s a difference between taking time off to bum around at home and taking time off to recover from an illness or help care for an ailing family member, and a good employer will understand that. If your gap was the result of an unfortunate personal situation, try not to come off as bitter or resentful about it. Instead, present the facts, and, if possible, highlight the ways you’ve become a stronger, more capable person as a result.

If You Were Laid Off From Your Last Job
Don’t hide the fact that you were let go. If your company downsized or restructured and your job was eliminated in the process, that’s really all you need to say. You don’t need to get into the details of whether your dismissal was unjust, nor do you need to overemphasize the fact that your stellar performance had nothing to do with your discharge. Most hiring managers understand the way layoffs work, and if you come across as defensive about your job elimination, it may lead your potential employer to wonder if perhaps there was, indeed, a reason why you were let go in particular. On the other hand, if you present your job elimination in a matter-of-fact, unapologetic fashion, you’ll come across as honest and self-assured.

If You Left Your Last Job Voluntarily
Explain the reasons why you chose to leave your job, and make it clear that the decision came from you. However, don’t badmouth your former employer or go into detail about how miserable you were at your last company. Instead, explain that your motives for leaving were career-focused and goal-oriented. For example, if you left because your old boss was constantly asking you to do menial tasks for which you were grossly overqualified, don’t say that during an interview. Instead, tell your potential employer that your last company just wasn’t a good fit, and that your job responsibilities didn’t end up aligning with the career path you had in mind.

One Final Thing
When discussing a gap in employment, own it. Don’t try to dismiss it or cover it up. If you give a potential employer the impression that you’re trying to hide your temporary break from the workforce, or that you’re embarrassed by it, you may hurt your chances of getting hired. Be confident in the way you present your employment history, and you just might wind up spinning that gap as a positive thing after all.