Explaining Employment Gaps On Your Resume

I’ve written about this before. As I keep up with trends in recruiting recently, I’ve noticed that some ATS systems used by some leading employers ask you to identify and elaborate employment gaps of six months or more on your online application.   Basically, covering this topic is always relevant and some of this advice should be repeated.

Let’s start by defining an employment gap. Generally speaking, if you were unemployed for more than six months within the last 8 to 10 years, a prospective employer will consider this a gap.  There are several ways to address this on your resume and the answer depends on why their is a gap. Not fun.  Not pretty. But with the economic downturn in 2007 and beyond, it is a reality.  This is easily remedied on your resume.

SHORT TERM EMPLOYMENT GAPS:  Just plain ol’ unemployed for a few months?  Just don’t include months on your resume or LinkedIn profile. For example, if one job started in May 2004, ended in September 2007 and the next job started in August 2008, just write “ABC Company, Anytown, US, 2004 to 2007” and “DEF Company, Anytown, US 2008 to Present”.  The employer won’t know if that gap is one month (December to January) or 18 months long.

LONGER EMPLOYMENT GAPS: My husband was unemployed for more than two years, a victim of the economic downturn and a high unemployment rate in his career field (digital sales and account management) and geographical area.  We addressed this on his resume by including everything he did in that time, related to his career or not.  He started a sports blog and was published by Yahoo! Sports and other online news agencies, he had a part-time job in retail just to get out of the house and interact with people (something he thrived on), he took some free online courses, and he offered his marketing and lead generation expertise to help me start this business.  This is juicy stuff to add to a resume as it demonstrated how he acquired new skills and kept his digital, sales, marketing and relationship building skills fresh.  Think about any volunteer work, part time work, education or professional development courses you have taken while unemployed and be sure to add that and include the dates so employers understand that is was during your gap.

PURSUED A DEGREE OR CERTIFICATION:  Perhaps your unemployment gap is related to a break to pursue a degree or certification? Be sure to list your Education and Certifications before your work experience, include dates and include a list of coursework and projects that highlight the skills and knowledge acquired.

MEDICAL OR FAMILY REASONS: Perhaps you left the workforce to raise children, care for an ailing family member, needed time off to deal with your own health or maybe decided to travel the world.  Be sure to include this under your work experience section on your resume.  Simply write, “Medical Leave” or “Family Sabbatical” and one sentence explanation.  For example, under Family Sabbatical you could include “Planned employment pause to focus on the care of an ailing parent” or “Planned job pause to focus on family matters” or “Planned job pause to travel and volunteer”.

HOW TO HANDLE ONLINE APPLICATIONS: If you are applying for jobs online, you may run into some online application systems asking you to include months and/or explaining gaps that are longer than six months.  Be truthful!  Include the months you started and ended a job and upload your resume.  You can address employment gaps in your cover letter or in the provided area.  There is no shame in just saying, “laid off in Sept 2008 and pursued new job opportunities full time until July 2009.”  Many states have passed laws in which employers cannot discriminate against the unemployed and truthfully, there are millions of us who have employment gaps in our resume whether from 2007, earlier or since.  Good employees sometimes have bad luck.  Own it.

Have more questions?  Just ask us! Send us your resume and we will provide you with a free critique and advice on how to address your specific employment gaps.




No comments yet.

Leave a Reply