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How to Explain an Employment Gap

employment gap

You may feel that an employment gap is an insurmountable obstacle, but it’s common. A recent Monster survey found that more than half of the fully employed respondents have either been unemployed or have experienced at least one employment gap. The average length of those gaps is 25 months. And now, with pandemic unemployment in play, you’re increasingly not alone in having a career gap front-and-center on your resume.

So how do you explain gaps in employment on your resume? Consider the following steps:

Be honest

Don’t alter dates or devise a fake consulting company to fill in the gap. These and other lies are easily found out during the vetting process through background checking, talking to references, and other means. There’s hardly any reason for an employment gap that outweighs a bold lie.

“All that it takes is a call to a former employer to determine whether or not you have lied. In addition to reflecting terribly on you during the interview process, lying on your resume can be grounds for dismissal in the future if it is uncovered,” explains Northeastern University’s Tim Stobierski.

Be smart

Unfortunately ATS software that scans resumes may dock you for extended gaps long before a human can ask you about it. Career Expert and Forbes Councils Member Tammy Homegardner recommends that any employment gap of more than six months deserves special treatment on your resume. Sometimes it can be as easy as using years instead of months on your resume or mentioning the gap in your cover letter (if you know it’ll be a glaring factor), but ask your recruiter for advice first.

Be brief

Employment gaps are extremely common. Explain gaps in employment as simply as possible, especially if it’s for a standard reason like being laid off due to a company reorganization, a new manager deciding to take the team in a different direction, a relocation due to a spouse’s job, or taking time to care for family.

One of the biggest fears recruiters have about job candidates with long or frequent employment gaps is that the person is difficult to work with or manage. Put those fear to rest (if you can) briefly, show the situation is no longer a factor, and redirect the question back to the position at hand. Career Sidekick offers some great sample explanations that can help.

Be positive

Don’t be defensive if a recruiter asks you about your employment gap. They’re on you side. They’re asking because they know they’ll be asked by the employer. Be transparent and the recruiter will certainly help you craft your best response moving forward. That response should be positive and forward-thinking.

You may feel embarrassed or frustrated about the employment gap, but don’t let it show. Whatever the reason for the gap, the employer needs to hear that you’re motivated and ready to get back to work and that you’re looking for a long-term commitment. Career transition expert Kourtney Whitehead offers additional tips here.

Be relevant

Recruiters see a long employment gap as a potential red flag when it comes to relevant skills. It’s important to show that, during that time or during your job search now, you’ve taken classes, volunteered in your field, freelanced, or gained certifications that either kept your skills fresh or—even better—increased your skills since your last job.

“There’s often a way to frame resume gaps as a period of personal and professional growth rather than just downtime,” according to “Shift the focus away from a gap in work to what you learned and accomplished and the transferable skills that will make you a great hire for this job.”

For more tips to address your own employment gap, ask your recruiter. We’re here to help.


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