Explain Employment Gaps in Your Resume

The job market is tough. There are plenty of jobs, but even more workers looking to fill them, leaving little room for error on applications and in interviews. Your prime goal in the job hunt is to impress the hiring manager, and this is difficult to do if your resume sports large employment gaps.

Have no fear, however, because there are ways to shed positive light on large employment gaps, thereby turning the employer’s attention away from the negative aspects of your resume. As long as you didn’t spend those periods of time in prison, you shouldn’t worry unduly about employment gaps. There are many reasons why you might have had to take time off from working, and that shouldn’t be a reason why you aren’t hired with a new company.

1. Explain it in your cover letter.

If you have a legitimate, personal reason from taking off from work, such as caring for a family member or an injury that left you temporarily disabled, you can briefly explain those circumstances in your cover letter. You don’t have to go into explicit detail to sufficiently cover your bases; just give the gist of the reason, and leave it at that. A hiring manager will be much less suspicious about employment gaps if you are up-front about the reason. You can also follow up the explanation with a positive comment, such as the one below.

After working as an account manager with XYZ Company for six years, I was forced to take off work for eightmonths while caring for my ill grandmother. In June, however, I returned to the advertising industry and more than tripled the net sales for ABC Company.

2. Include years rather than months.

On your resume, you don’t have to put that you worked with a particular company from April of 2000 until January of 2005. Unstead, simply state that you worked from 2000 through 2005. This way, if you were out of work from January until November, the employer isn’t immediately drawn to that employment gap. Again, you shouldn’t lie on your resume and put that you worked until November of 2005, but you don’t have to fully disclose the month and date of your termination, either.

2000-2005 XYZ Company Edmond, OKlahoma

3. Limit your experience.

Even if you are applying for a managerial position, you don’t have to include your entire work history in your resume. If, in 1983, you were out of work for six months, you don’t even have to include that position, or the employment gap. The standard rule of thumb is to include the last four jobs you’ve held or the last ten years of experience, whichever is shorter. Don’t invite questions or scrutiny when it isn’t necessary.

4. Draw the attention away from gaps.

When you’re formatting your resume, draw the focus of the employer to the positions held and your job description. In order to do this effectively, avoid bolding, italicizing or underlining dates; instead, bold the title of the position you held. This will keep the hiring manager from focusing on employment gaps, and will draw them instead to your qualifying experience in the industry.

5. List classes, volunteering and consulting work.

When you were out of a job, did you do something else? In many cases, other types of work qualify as employment, and might even be appreciated by the employer. If you participated in other activities during the months or years that you were unemployed, list them on your resume just as you would any other job. Include the years of participation, your title and the organization. If you went to school, especially if the classes pertain to the industry for which you are applying, list the classes you took and your cumulative GPA. Continuing education is important in many careers.

6. For housewives…

Many women who have been married with children do not work in order to stay at home with the kids. My mother is a prime example. She stayed home and took care of my sisters and I, and when she and my father divorced, she was put back on the job hunt. She hadn’t worked in fifteen years, which meant that she was well behind other applicants, but she used that fact to her advantage.

Don’t allude to an explanation in your resume. Instead, explain it in the interview. Tell the hiring manager that you’ve been a mom and a wife, and that you are just now re-entering the work force. If you can, take classes in computers or in business administration, and list those on your resume to show enthusiasm for getting back to work. This will appeal to many employers.

However you decide to handle it, there are much better ways than doing nothing and hoping for the best. Everyone has a circumstance, so be sure that you don’t let it get in the way of finding a new job.

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