How to Explain Gaps in Your Resume?

Explaining a gap in your resume correctly is a fine line to walk. Whether you found yourself unemployed due to the pandemic or took a break from work to care for family members, the thought of explaining an employment gap during an interview can be stressful.

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Conversely, it’s important for hiring managers to know what to look for when an interviewee is explaining their employment gap. Are they trying to dodge questions, or address them head on? Do they have valid reasons for the gaps in their resume?

For both sides, a resume gap can be a tough situation to navigate. If you are a potential employee, you should focus on what you learned during your time away that can’t be taught in the physical office. However, it’s crucial not to exaggerate or stretch the truth — employers can almost always see right through you.

Resume Gap vs. Job Hopping

It’s important to understand what a resume gap truly is. If you took three or four months after your last position to find a new job, that is usually considered a job searching period and likely won’t raise any questions from an employer. However, raise that number to eight or nine months and you have a long enough period of time to constitute a resume gap due to unemployment.

You should also be aware of the difference between a resume gap and job hopping (and the impact both of these can have on your resume). Job hopping is when you leave a position in less than a year, and can be a red flag to employers if you have a history of it. Job hopping once or twice might just raise a single question asking for an explanation, but if you consistently are holding positions for less than a year, employers will be less likely to consider you as a candidate — who’s to say you won’t do the same thing at their company?

Common Resume Gaps (And How to Explain Them)

There are five common types of resume gaps, and it’s important to understand how to explain each one on your resume and in an interview. While some gaps can be for upwards of 10 years, others are just for around six months. Here are the most common resume gaps and how to explain them:

  • Unemployment: If you found yourself unemployed, the most important thing is to focus on what you learned or achieved during your time off. Spending months of unemployment binge-watching TV shows is very different from spending your time becoming certified in relevant topics and taking courses to improve your career trajectory.
  • Travel: A travel gap can be a bit tougher to explain, since often these are “by choice”. However, by highlighting the valuable skills you learned like cultural understanding and communication, you can show employers that you used your time travelling wisely and are ready to dive back into the professional world head-first.
  • School: A school-related resume gap is usually easier to explain, since chances are you went back to school to advance your career. Be sure to highlight specific examples of what you learned that makes you a standout candidate compared to the rest.
  • Non-relevant job: If you took a job that wasn’t relevant to your career, you may not want to take up space on your resume explaining the gap. However, this is something that can be mentioned during the interview or in a cover letter so your interviewer isn’t left wondering about the mysterious gap in your resume.
  • Family leave: Family-related leave is a pretty common reason for taking time off of work — but it can still be tough getting back into the game after time away from the office. Be sure to explain how you kept up your professional skills during your time with family.

When explaining a gap in your resume, it’s absolutely crucial to be transparent with your interviewer. You should assure them that the gap in your resume isn’t a pattern, and that you are ready and eager to dive back in to the professional world at their company.

Regardless of the reason for your resume gap, always be honest about it. For a complete guide to how to structure a gap in your resume, check out the infographic below.

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