Employment Gap

Managing a Resume Employment Gap

Gap

Many job seekers find themselves grappling with the best way to address an employment gap in their resume positively. Although time away from work is not uncommon, it is still vital to tackle work history gaps with careful consideration to avoid creating red flags with prospective employers.

There are various reasons individuals may have employment gaps. Maternity or sick leave are relatively common, as is time-off to pursue further education. Other gaps may include time to travel, caring for an elderly or ill family member, or being laid off. If the work history gap occurred for an extended period of time, a job seeker has a few options to consider:

 

Address the gap by referencing the time frame with a brief reason. Great detail is not required. For example:

Independent Caregiver, June 2016 – January 2017.  Provided personal care to an elderly family member.

or

MBA Studies – Stateside College, May 2015 – June 2016.  Dedicated time to finalizing advanced degree program.

 

Fill the gap with other activities. This can only be done if it is honest and true.

For example, maybe you were laid off last year but have since taken on a volunteer position with a local organization that is regular and provides new skill sets. Or, you are doing consulting work as it comes available. These might be referenced in your resume as follows:

Part-Time Administrative Support (volunteer).  Local Community Association, March 2015 – Present.

  • Provide secretarial services to local community association 10 hours each week, answering a busy switchboard and addressing  in-person customer inquiries. 

or

IT Project Management Consultant.  March 2015 – Present.

  • Managed and delivered 3 information technology projects, ranging in cost from $50K to $75K.
  • Finalized all projects on time and within budget.
  • Submitted requests for proposals (RFPs) and negotiated contract terms with local business owners.

 

If an employment gap was for a short amount of time there is the possibility it is minimized in the resume. Meaning, don’t draw unnecessary attention to it. One way to minimize the gap is to remove months for each employment period and just list years.

Sometimes this simple adjustment is enough to limit time-frame scrutiny. Again, this will only work in certain situations, and you may still be requested to provide detailed specifics – and a truthful answer – if an employer requires more facts.

As an example, the professional below was unemployed from November 2013 to January 2014.  You can’t tell in their chronological work history dates because the gap was short (between roles):

Senior Accountant – ABC Inc., 2014 – 2017

Position details.

Accountant – XYZ Company, 2010 – 2013

Position details. 

 

Finally, you might opt to provide a simple reference to your unemployment gap in an accompanying cover letter. The only concern here is some employers don’t read cover letters.

Regardless of the reason for a gap, sometimes just a brief mention can fill the void and pacify a curious employer. Apply the best strategy for you, your situation, and the intended audience.

Keep in mind that many ATS (applicant tracking systems) are programmed to identify gaps in chronological work history, within resume files, so addressing the gap for online applications might be best.

The biggest mistake a job seeker can make when addressing their employment gap is to try and hide it. Eliminating dates or presenting large gaps between dates in a resume can make employers nervous, and falsifying dates or employment periods can be disastrous. Even a simple (positive) explanation is better than trying to fabricate the past or avoid it altogether.

Regardless of the reason for an employment gap, tackle it with confidence. Be prepared to elaborate on any employment gaps in a positive and confident manner when asked.

Often, employers are well aware of unique employment situations but need to hear how you managed them. Remind employers about what you have to offer and re-focus their attention on the skills you gained and obtained during any and all past experiences.

 

Adrienne Tom

Looking to take your executive resume or job search to the next level to land your next job faster and increase your earning power? I can help! Visit me online at CareerImpressions.ca to learn more about my award-winning resume writing, LinkedIn writing, and job search strategies for top professionals and executives located across Canada and the USA.

4 Comments

  1. Anisa on April 18, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Hi! I read your article about employment gaps and was curious if you had advice for individuals who have taken time off to raise their families. How would you recommend placing a 2 or 3 gap on your resume?Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated!Anisa

    • Adrienne Tom on April 18, 2018 at 6:47 pm

      Hello Anisa,For your situation, addressing the gap is likely the best approach (as outlined in the post). Something short and honest like : Took 3 years off to raise kids, year-year. In addition, if you can ‘fill the gap’ with any volunteer or professional development pursuits, even better!

  2. Victoria on April 18, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    How does one address a seventeen year employment gap due to raising children?I also spent 2&1/2 years caring for elderly In-laws.

    • Adrienne Tom on April 18, 2018 at 6:44 pm

      Hello Victoria,Thank you for reaching out. The best way to write a resume after an extended leave is to position your most related skills front and center (consider putting a Qualifications section near the start of your file to really push your top skills). In addition, fill the gap with any and all volunteer, professional development or additional educational pursuits, demonstrating to employers that your skill sets are still strong. You can also address the gap in a minimal way (as outlined in the blog post). A long gap can be trickier to ‘sell’, as employers will be seeking the most qualified candidates for their role – so demonstrating strong abilities in alignment with position requirements is key.

Leave a Comment