When, and How, to Explain Gaps in Your Resume


Professional Resume and resume writing

 

 

 

 

 

Re-entering the job market after an extended absence can be a scary thing. They say that the best time to find a new job is while you are still currently employed, and there is a lot of truth to that – hiring managers tend toward applicants who have a current work history, and the longer that gap in your employment – the harder it can be to convince them you are still relevant and valuable, no matter what industry you are in.

So, yeah, filling out an application when you have a good chunk of time unaccounted for can be nerve wracking. But knowing when and how to address that elephant in the room can make all the difference in terms of your chances at landing that job.

 

On the Cover Letter

When your resume boasts a lot of experience, but also reveals a solid span of time where you were unemployed, one of the first things you may want to consider doing is changing up your resume format. Instead of using the standard chronological format, which will only further highlight the gaps in your employment, consider redrafting your resume in a functional format – highlighting your skills and abilities, as opposed to your job titles and dates of employment.

Even with a chronological format, you will still be listing those titles and dates on the resume – they are just typically reduced to bullet points at the bottom, allowing your skills and expertise to get the bulk of the attention. But if you have a gap of a year or longer, it’s likely a hiring manager will still notice. So in those cases, you will want to address the gap on your cover letter. Keep your explanation brief and gear the bulk of the cover letter to your capabilities, but add a sentence or two pertaining to your extended leave from the work force, ending on a note of excitement and preparedness to return.

 

In the Interview

If your leave was less than a year long, don’t address it on the cover letter. Utilize the functional resume format, use your cover letter to address what you have to offer, and trust that if the hiring manager does notice your gap in employment – they will choose to address it during the interview, rather than allowing it to be a complete deal breaker.

 

Be Prepared

They will bring it up, though, regardless of whether or not you have addressed your employment gap on your cover letter. So be prepared for that – the question about what you did with your time away from the workforce will come up. And how you answer that question will make a difference in whether or not you move on to the next level of potential hires.

 

Be Honest

Under no circumstances should you try to pretend as though your leave was something it wasn’t. If you spent 18 months traveling the world on an inheritance you received, or if you opted out of the workforce when you had children, out of a desire to stay home with them, be honest about that. Obviously, there are some details that don’t need to be shared (keep your stories about drunken beach nights to yourself), but don’t make up a story that you think sounds better, just because you are afraid of admitting the true reason you took time off. Interviewers appreciate honesty, and anyway – they will find out if you say you spent that time building houses in Costa Rica, when in reality, you were just riding out the last of your severance pay while watching talk shows on your couch. A positive spin is one thing, but a bold-faced lie will only hurt you in the end.

 

Be Confident

Own how you spent your time away from the workforce and don’t shy away from talking about it, but also be confident in what you have to offer now. Talk about how that time you spent taking care of your ailing parents taught you responsibitliy and loyalty, while also reminding you how ready you are to return to the workforce. Or explain what you learned about commitment while hiking some of the tallest peaks in the world. Know what you have to offer, and don’t be afraid to discuss it in relation to that time you took off. Because it is sometimes the road less traveled that leads to the best learning experiences, and you never know when you will come across a hiring manager who truly appreciates your unique perspective on life and business.

 

 

 

About Kylie Hammond
Executive Search Consultant, Head-Hunter, HR Consultant, Executive Career Coach, Expert Resume Writer & Executive Talent Agent.

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