Gap In Employment: How To Handle It On Your Resume


“Dear Pete: How do I handle a gap in employment on my resume? ”


There are 2 main areas to consider: the length of the gap in employment and the reason for the gap in employment. 

Let’s address length first…  If you have a fairly consistent work history with tenures of multiple years for each of your employers, you can often “hide” an employment gap of a few months by only mentioning the years of employment (i.e. worked for ABC Company from 2003-2007, worked for DEF Company from 2008-2009, and worked for XYZ Company from 2010-Present).

How you address a gap of more than a year depends largely on the reason for the gap.  In general, you need to overcome any concerns that you will have difficulty assimilating back into the workforce, and you need to show the employer how you have used your “time off” to improve yourself.  While you must be honest about your situation, a creative resume writer can help you craft your story in a compelling manner (for your resume, cover letters, and interviews).

In regard to your reason for your gap in employment, let’s address 5 of the most common scenarios with specific suggestions on how to handle each one on your resume:

  • You went back to school full-time.  This one is pretty easy to cover on your resume.  You can list your educational experience as if it was a job and use something like “Full-Time MBA Student” as your job title.  You can also include a brief description of what you studied/learned, and you can use bullets to highlight your top achievements while in school. 
  • You pursued an entrepreneurial venture.  Maybe you started your own business or landed some freelance work.  Be specific about what you did and how these experiences will help you as an employee.  (Note: Employers may have concerns about your level of commitment to them if you are trying to land a full-time job after being self-employed.  Be prepared to overcome this objection.)      
  • You were taking care of your family. Whatever the case, you’ll need to convince employers that you are ready to rejoin the workforce, and you’ll need to show them that your professional skills and expertise are still sharp. 
  • You were dealing with your own medical issues.  Whatever your situation was, beware of making yourself out to be a victim.  Don’t provide any more details than are absolutely necessary.  Make sure employers know that you will be more than capable of performing any required duties if they hire you. 
  • You were laid off.  Emphasize what you did during your “time off” to improve yourself (see below for ideas).  Do not refer to yourself as “unemployed.” 

Here are 3 more ideas to consider on how to address a gap in employment:

  • Consider a functional format: With this format, you focus more on your skills and achievements, instead of a chronological listing of your work history.  Some employers will be skeptical of this format since it’s not traditional and may give the impression that you have something to hide.  Get help from a resume writer if you choose this route.
  • Cover letters will be crucial: You can use 1-2 sentences in a well-written cover letter to explain the gap in your work history.  This works especially well for situations that are hard to explain on a resume (i.e. caring for a sick family member).  This will also be crucial if you want to work for someone else again after working for yourself for an extended period of time.
  • Stay active.  If you are in the midst of a gap in employment right now (for any reason), make sure that you stay active and keep your skills/expertise sharp.  You can do this by getting involved with professional associations, doing freelance work, attending professional development events, taking courses to expand your professional skills/knowledge, volunteering, and so on.

Author Bio: Pete Leibman is the Founder of Dream Job Academy and the Author of “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You.”  His career advice has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN. 

P.S. Are you having trouble with your resume or with landing interviews or job offers?  If so, email your current resume (and a job description for a position you are interested in) to resume [at] DreamJobAcademy [dot] com.  Each week, Pete provides confidential resume reviews (for FREE) for randomly selected job-seekers! 

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