What do I do about a gap in my resume?

You are looking for a new job, but you have a resume gap or 2 in the past that you need to account for. Here are some approaches for honestly approaching these gaps, as well as when you need to explain the gaps.

  • If your job gap is personal in nature, such as child care or elder care, be succinct in your explanation and indicate that the situation has been resolved. Emphasize that you are enthusiastically looking forward to a new job.

  • If your job gap is short – say, a few months – typically prospective employers won’t be concerned. However, if those types of gaps are repetitive, you could be pegged as a “job hopper” and will need to have a strong explanation for them.

  • If your previous job separation was not voluntary, you will need to address this, too – and remember not to speak negatively about your previous employer. If the separation was due to downsizing, it’s important to have some references to indicate your value as an employee.

  • If, during your gap, you took classes to enhance your skills, make sure you list them as part of your continuing education.

  • If you did freelance consulting, or did volunteer work, list them as part of your work history.

  • Your gap activities may also have helped you to gain important skills such as communication and organization – emphasize them during your current search.

  • When you have gaps of less than a year, express your job timelines as YYYY-YYYY instead of MM/YYYY–MM/YYYY.

  • If you’ve been in the workforce for many years, you don’t need to reference all your jobs, or job gaps, particularly those older than 10 or 15 years. An exception might be if you are applying for a high-level management position, in which case you probably need to go further back in time.

In all cases, make sure you tell the truth – potential employers can easily check your employment history. Also, make sure you have clear explanations for anything in your past that may come up in the interview cycle – good interviewers can easily identify inconsistencies, which will harm your credibility and probably cost you a job.

How you communicate your past work, including any gaps, is integral to how you represent yourself – whether it’s in an online application, a resume, or during an interview. Best of luck in constructing your story!