Resume Writing: Explaining Employment Gaps

Summary: Have you ever wondered how to explain the gaps in your employment history on a resume? Well, the good news is that many people have them and they are not anything to shy away from. Here are several strategies for managing a lapse in the timeline on your resume.

Over the course of the adult working years, many people want or need to take time off from being gainfully employed. For example, many mothers choose to leave the workforce for an extended period of time in order to stay at home with young children. Or maybe a sick relative needed full-time assistance for a number of months or years. Whatever the case may be, intervals of unemployment can put holes in the timeline of your resume that may leave potential employers wondering. Here are a few tips for covering those gaps:
• Use your cover letter to your advantage. If your employment gaps are extensive, explain the gaps briefly in your cover letter. There is nothing wrong with disclosing that you took time off to care for young children or ageing parents. This strategy is much better than leaving the hiring manager guessing as to why you spent years away from the workforce.
• Begin with a summary statement and career highlights. By starting out your resume with this information, you will draw attention to the accomplishments you have achieved and you will effectively underscore the skills that you can bring to the company.
• Shift the focus by using a functional format. Instead of listing work chronologically, group your work experience by type of work done. Use bold font for the position title and less conspicuous formatting on dates. This will redirect the focus of the hiring manager towards qualifying experience and not employment dates.
• Include all relevant experience. Work experience doesn’t just include paid work experience. Perhaps while you were not gainfully employed you did volunteer work at a school, hospital, or nursing home. Or maybe you occasionally did freelance work or consulting. Those activities are valuable and can show your potential employer that you are conscientious and industrious even when drawing little or no salary.
• Address the gaps in the interview. If you get called in for an interview, use that time to cover the specifics pertaining to any time lapses in your resume. And don’t be apologetic. If you present the employment gap as negative, your interviewer will also perceive it that way.
Many people find themselves not really knowing how to explain the months or years in their employment history that they didn’t work. The one thing to remember is that many people have employment gaps and they are not something to shy away from.

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