When applying for jobs, your resume is your top tool to grab the attention of recruiters and hiring managers and show them why you’re the best candidate. In many cases, your resume might reflect a stretch of time between roles. This is perfectly normal– life happens and gaps in employment are nothing to be ashamed of. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to successfully explaining gaps in your resume.
1. Be prepared to explain your resume gaps during an interview.
If you’re actively applying for jobs and know you have gaps in your resume, you need to assume those gaps will come up at some point during an interview. If you don’t prepare beforehand to explain a gap in your resume, you run the risk of coming across as non-transparent and of not being able to accurately convey why the resume gap doesn’t reflect negatively on your work ethic or the professional value you bring to the table.
Plus, fumbling your words during an interview to answer a question you should have prepped for usually doesn’t make for the best first impression. Ultimately, keep in mind that you don’t have to dwell on or justify your resume gaps, but you do need to explain them.
2. Be honest about the reasons for your resume gaps.
The absolute best way to explain a gap in your resume is with honesty. You don’t have to overshare and explain every little detail of your time between jobs, but you do need to be transparent about the reason for the gap. If you aren’t honest and try to gloss over the gaps, prospective employers may be left to assume you were fired from a position even if that isn’t the case. If you try to leave resume gaps off your resume entirely, there’s a good chance you’ll be found out anyway after a basic employment check.
Common Reasons for Resume Gaps
Medical. If you had to take some time off work due to medical reasons, you don’t need to be overly detailed about the specifics of your health or share anything you aren’t comfortable sharing. In most cases, simply stating that you took time off for health reasons is enough. The key here is to reassure prospective employers that you’re ready to come back to work.
Family. Having a child or needing to take care of a sick relative can often lead to gaps in your resume. Instead of dwelling on the time off, explain the skills you honed during the gap and how you developed as a person. For example, becoming a new parent and spending time at home with a newborn means you likely learned a lot about organization and time management.
Layoffs. The most important thing to keep in mind if your resume gap is due to being laid off is that trash-talking your former employer is never a good idea. The best course of action is to briefly explain what lead to the layoff (budget cuts, restructuring, etc.) and then move on to talk about the skills you learned while the role and the results you produced. This is also a great time to bring up any references you can provide from your time in the role.
Education. It’s pretty common for people to take time off work in order to further their education. Whether you spent four years earning a degree or a few months working on a professional certificate, focusing on your education shows you’re invested in your own growth and have a lot to offer prospective employers. Make sure to highlight how your educational experience will directly translate to the role you’re interested in.
Travel. Taking time off to see the world can actually make you even more of an asset to a company since you likely have a broadened perspective and an understanding of intercultural communication. As is the case with explaining other reasons for resume gaps, focus on the value of the experience and how it made you a more well-rounded person who has a lot to offer professionally.
3. Frame your resume gaps in a positive way.
While explaining the reasons for the gaps in your resume, try framing them in a positive way rather than dwelling on the fact that you were without a job for a while. For example, if you spent time volunteering during your employment gap, make sure to bring that up and highlight the things you learned during the experience.
If you traveled at all during the gap in your resume, briefly mention your travels and explain how valuable it was for you to expand your worldview and how that has positively impacted your professional development. Even if you don’t have any concrete experience to point to during a resume gap, you could focus on how you used the time to develop your professional soft skills.
4. Demonstrate your readiness to return to work after a gap.
Most quality employers should understand the gaps in your resume after you explain them thoroughly and should not hold it against you. The most important thing is to focus on the present and let the employer know why you’re ready and able to return to the workforce. If you’re able to highlight the qualifications and experience that truly make you the best person for the job, an employment gap won’t matter in the long run.
Ready to return to work? Need a little help tailoring your resume for the role of your dreams? Our team of experts here at Stratice is at your service! Contact us today.