How to Address Gaps on Your Resume

Resume gaps are a problem because they raise an automatic red flag. What went wrong? Why did you stop working? Will you be a bad employee?

The trick is to calm your potential employer’s fears. People take time off for a variety of reasons. Here’s how to approach the subject.

The Do’s

Stay Honest – Lying about an employment gap is bad idea. The truth usually surfaces at some point. Even if you were fired or made a poor decision, be upfront. However, be sure to emphasize how you learned from any mistakes and, therefore, won’t repeat them.

Focus on the Wins – Just because you took time off doesn’t mean you stopped learning. Maybe you volunteered, traveled, took classes, cared for young children or even overcame a serious illness. Any of these life experiences teach skills that can make you a better employee. Highlight what you gained.

Put the Gap Behind You – Your potential employer may worry you will leave this job too. What if the issue resurfaces? Reassure them you have resolved all the circumstances and are ready to get back to work.   

Be Brief – You want to explain your resume gap, but you don’t have to give unnecessary details. Keep your account short and to the point. The more you say the greater your chances of talking yourself into trouble.

Rehearse a Response – Detailing the reasons behind an employment break can be tricky and awkward under the best of circumstances. Practice your explanation so you sound confident and sure of yourself. If you stumble, ramble or hesitate, this only brings up more questions.

Use Your Network – Despite your best efforts, a gap in your work history will make some organizations nervous. If you know someone within the company, reach out to them. An employer will be less worried about hiring you if a current employee is willing to vouch for your reliability and work ethic.   

The Don’ts

Criticize or Complain – Work history gaps can be the result of extremely difficult events. No one denies this. Nevertheless, a negative outlook will hurt your chances of landing another job. Stay upbeat and positive. A sense of humor helps too. And, never EVER bad-mouth a previous employer. Best case you look like a whiner; worst case, your interviewer is friends with your old boss. Uh oh!    

Apologize – If you took time off, you either reacted to circumstances beyond your control or committed to a decision you felt was right at the time. You don’t need to justify or feel guilty. Own your resume gap!

Assume Everyone Will Be Fair and Understanding – Some companies will automatically disqualify any applications with work history gaps. Although this practice is unfortunate for both organizations (who automatically limit their talent pool) and candidates, recognize this does happen and move on.

Are You Trying to Overcome an Employment Gap?

A staffing service can help you get your foot in the door. At Connectology, we provide resume reviews, interview coaching and career planning services. Job search smarter beginning today!