Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Do you have gaps in your work history? If so, you are not alone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 6 million Americans are unemployed. Many of these people will have to find a way to explain this gap in their work history, just like you. So, don’t think that having a gap in your work history will prevent you from landing the job you want.
The trick is to push prospective employers to look beyond your work history gap and see the potential you bring to the table. Here are some tips for how to explain gaps in your work history.
Be Upfront and Honest
The last thing you want to do is to lie or try to hide your work history gap from prospective employees. Whether the gap in your work history is due to personal reasons, educational or training purposes, or you were laid off or even fired from your previous job, it’s best to be upfront an honest about it right from the start. Most employers understand that some candidates will have a gap in their work history. What these employers want to know if these issues are resolved and won’t affect future work performance.
Minimize the Effect
Take proactive steps to minimize the effect of any gaps in your work history on your resume. For instance, if you have longer gaps in your work history, try using years instead of months for dates of employment. For example, if you worked from November 2015 to June 2018, you can simply list 2015 – 2018, as dates of employment. Also, keep your dates of employment in plain text versus using bold font. This technique can help to draw attention away from the gaps in your work history.
Use the Right Resume Style
You definitely don’t want to use a chronological style resume if you have significant gaps in your work history. This resume style will only draw more attention to these gaps in employment. Instead, try a functional style resume. This type of resume focuses on skills and ability versus work experience. If, however, you have an excellent work history with just one gap in employment, you may want to use a combination style resume. This resume type uniquely highlights both work history and skills to make them the primary focus.
Keep it Positive
A gap in a person’s work history does not have to be a negative thing. This is precisely what you need to show potential employers. You can do this by staying positive and explaining how your time off makes you a better candidate. Emphasis any volunteer work, training, or skill building done during your time off work. Adding these elements to your resume can show prospective employers that you even though you weren’t working, you were still career-focused. Most importantly, show your enthusiasm for returning to work and how you can be an asset to the employer.
Prepare for Your Interview
Showing confidence in your skills and ability can go a long way in helping you land the job. The best way to do this is to walk into your interview prepared to answer any question. Enlist the help of friends, family members, and mentors to hold a mock interview so you can practice answering these tough questions about your employment gap. Also, remember to avoid talking negatively about past employers. This can be difficult, especially if you were laid off or fired from a previous job, but negative comments can hurt your chances of getting the job.
Explain – and Move On
Honesty is essential, but that doesn’t mean prospective employers need to know every little detail of why you have a gap in your work history. One of the worst things you can do when writing or resume or during an interview is to keep talking about this gap in employment. If you don’t want potential employers to make a big deal about this gap, then you can’t make a big deal about it. Be concise when answering questions. Follow through by explaining how any issues will not interfere with your future performance and move on.
Include a Cover Letter
Experts debate about whether it’s important to include a cover letter with a resume or not. But, if you have gaps in your work history, a cover letter is crucial. This tool will give you a platform to explain the gap to potential employers. Use this space wisely. Start by briefly describing the gap in employment and follow through by explaining how these issues are now resolved. The more significant portion of your cover letter should focus on your unique skills and what you have to offer the company.
Having gaps in your work history doesn’t mean that you can’t get the job. The important thing is to make sure that prospective employers see the whole picture and let them know why you would be the best fit for the job.