6 Top Ways to Deal With Gaps in Employment on Your Resume

Posted on 28. Oct, 2013 by in resume

Gaps in employment are faced by many individuals for different reasons, such as caring for a family member or relocating. This includes the stay home mom returning to work. There are also reasons that are out of their control like company-wide layoffs. Although many hiring managers see gaps in employment as red flags, there are ways to skillfully deal with these employment gaps both in your resume and cover letter to aid you in your job search.

Whether you are a stay at home mom returning to work, caring for a parent or other loved one, or looking for a new position, some or all items listed below may help you deal with gaps in employment, just remember to be careful and strategic, but most of all, be honest. In your resume you can utilize simple strategies to show off your skills and achievements and downplay the gaps in your employment history.

Eliminate Gaps in Employment on Your Resume

1. Show Period of Employment in Years Rather Than Months. A simple way to reduce the obvious appearance of gaps in employment is by removing the months of employment on your resume and only include the years as shown below.

Typical Resume Format

Format to Minimize Gaps in Employment

XYZ Company – December 2012 – Present

XYZ Company – 2012 – Present

ABC Company – January 2009 – July 2012

ABC Company – 2009 – 2012

2. Focus on Relevant Work Experience. You do not need to include all of your employment history on a resume, especially if some of the information is irrelevant. Although every individual’s experience and situation varies, in general you do not need to include more than 10 years of experience for professional positions and 10-15 years’ experience for management/upper management. If you have a few years at the beginning of your career where you endured gaps, consider leaving this information off.

3. Demonstrate That You Stayed Current in Skills. What you did while taking time off also matters to hiring managers. No matter if you were a stay at home mom, cared for a loved one, or unemployed, they want to know that you were productive and maintained your sharpness, enhanced your skills, and expanded on your education. If you completed freelance jobs while on a break between companies you may consider including this information as one of your positions. Be cautious with your title, many individuals would be best served to use a general title of the work they completed rather than listing themselves as ‘owner’ of their company. For example, if you completed freelance web design work, consider using the title: Web Designer or Web Developer. This not only shows that you remained active but also that you continued to sharpen your skills.

4. Include Volunteer Work on Your Resume. If you volunteered during your gap in employment or held a position in a professional group, make sure to highlight this on your resume. Showing that you developed professionally and contributed helps focus a reviewer more on what you did instead of on your employment gaps.

5. Use a Resume Format That Minimizes Employment Gaps. The way your resume is formatted can also be used in your favor when dealing with an employment gap. Consider not bolding or italicizing your employment dates to reduce how much they stand out. Also make sure you use the top half of your resume effectively since this is the ‘prime real estate’ on your resume. Make sure you include an experience summary statement or skills section as this will help focus the hiring manager on what you can do for a company and why you are a great fit.

6. Tell Your Story in a Cover Letter. When you have employment gaps on your resume, one of the best tools to help explain these gaps to hiring managers is through the cover letter. You can simply begin a paragraph with something like this:

  • “Eager to re-enter the job market after taking time off to care for my child”
  • “Relocating to (State) for my spouse’s career…”
  • “Recently furthered my education in X…”

These basic sentence starters help paint a picture as to why there may be a gap on your resume. They are subtle but impacting and help bridge the disconnect that exists.

However, not all gaps are a simple sentence, some may be more delicate such as a companywide layoff, being fired for performance, or incarceration. In these situations you may find the best tactic to be acknowledging your gap and pointing to your productivity during that time (volunteering, consulting, furthering education, etc.)

Take Action Now to Improve Your Resume

Although gaps can be difficult to conquer, they are still conquerable. Remaining focused on the positive, highlighting your strengths and achievements, and remaining truthful about your gaps are the secrets to dealing with them during your job search.

Special thanks to Kerry Gustafson from Simply Great Resumes for this post on dealing with gaps in employment. She appears on the Resume Remodeler list of 2014 Top Resume Writers and 2013 Top Resume Writers. Kerry is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) who founded Simply Great Resumes in July of 2012 after completing 8 years as a professional resume writer for other companies. Skilled at narrowing in on client’s roles and responsibilities, Kerry has a natural ability to change the dreaded resume creation into a fun and awareness-building experience. Check out the Simply Great Resumes web site for more great tips and details on their resume writing packages.

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