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How Do I Explain A Long Employment Gap In My Resume?

November 11, 2019 | By | 529 Replies More

resume for employment gap

 

Unemployment can happen to any one. But how you handle the employment gap on your resume can make or break your chances of getting hired.

 

After a lengthy period of unemployment you get back on your feet and you’re ready to go back to work. As you begin to craft your resume, however, you have a dilemma: how should you explain the long period of time you were not employed?

 

Here are some tips to help you fill in this gap with honesty and confidence.

First, understand how employment gaps are seen by potential employers. Next, consider acceptable reasons for a long employment gap. Then, know what activities employers consider as acceptable fillers for that period of time time. Finally, spell out these activities so they increase your chances of getting an interview.

 

 

How employment gaps are viewed by employers

You’ve probably heard that it’s easier for an employed person to find a job than it is an unemployed person. Perhaps, some experts say, it’s because a candidate seems less desperate. Being unemployed is viewed as negative by most recruiters; furthermore, the longer someone remains unemployed, the less desirable they appear.

 

According to a field study by leading resume service ResumeGo, unemployment periods over two years drastically reduced a candidate’s chances of being called in for an interview.

 

 

“Those with gaps in their work history run the risk of being seen as lazy or unfocused with their careers, and not as an in-demand asset in the eyes of potential employers,” explained Peter Yang, the CEO and co-founder of ResumeGo to SHRM.com.

 

Ouch! Maybe you wanted to raise a family. Or your company closed. Or you fell ill for a long time. Or any other reason. But certainly you didn’t become “lazy or unfocused”.

 

 

Moving beyond the stigma

Your life situations have changed and now you’re ready to resume your career. But after an extended leave from work, do you even stand a rat’s chance?

 

Yes, you do. It all depends on how you present your employment gap when you apply for a job. According to Yang, “Applicants who provided a reason for their work gap received close to 60% more interviews [than those who didn’t provide a reason].”

 

resume for employment gap

 

Cover Letter

According to resume service LiveCareer.com, “The purpose of a cover letter is to give a recruiter or hiring manager a more detailed view of your accomplishments and a sense of what you’ll bring to the table if you are hired.”

 

Although  a cover letter serves to introduce you, its actual purpose is to show the employer how you’ll be able to help them, not the other way around.

 

“Managers are looking for you to show that you understand their business and that you care about what they need,” Blue Sky Resumes’ founder Louise Fletcher told Careerbuilder.com.

 

When you understand your cover letter to be a way of saying, “I understand your business, your needs, and what you’re looking for—and I can help,” then it’s probably not the best place to mention your employment gap.

 

 

Resume

While you should leave your employment gap off your cover letter, you still need to address it. The proper place to do so is in your resume.

 

This scares a lot of people, so it’s tempting to use tricks to try to hide your period of unemployment altogether. However, omitting months in your employment dates, or omitting dates all together are just a few tricks recruiters know all too well.

 

 

“Masking a gap or job hopping concern could, in theory, help get your foot in the door, but recruiters and hiring managers will uncover the truth at some point in the hiring process. They won’t be happy to learn about a potential problem after they’ve already invested the time to meet you,” writes Jon Shield on Jobscan.com’s blog.

 

Honesty is always the best policy, and even better when you come prepared.

 

 

Resume Preparation

It’s hard not to browbeaten when explaining a gap on your resume. So, try not to allow yourself to feel ashamed of choices you thought were made for the better, or times when you had no choice. Your time off work was probably for a good reason–one that almost any recruiter or manager would understand.

 

 

A “reason” is not the same as an “excuse”

To get started, write down why you stopped working and the rephrase it in the most positive manner. For example: “Despite enjoying a career in accounting, my family was preparing to place my father in a nursing home. I couldn’t allow that. And, since he had dementia, he needed me to be home with him most of the time. As a result, I chose to devote whatever time was needed to give him the best possible quality of life with the time he had left.”

 

Put in such a positive light, does that sound like an cop-out (excuse) or a noble sacrifice (good reason)? You can do the same thing even if you were fired. Find a positive spin.

 

 

Identify the value in non-career related activities

Take inventory of all the things you did during your time off, whether related to your career or not. Even somethine unrelated, such as caring for an aged parent with dementia, will undoubtably have given you experience that could prove valuable to a potential employer. Write those down in full sentences so you can practice formally writing them in a resume (and hopefully,  later saying them to an interviewer).

 

Instead of, “I ensured my father ate every day,” try, “For three years I handled meal planning for my father who had changing nutritional needs based on his steadily declining state.”

 

resume for employment gap

 

Demonstrate that you’ve stayed current

The truth is, most recruiters do understand that “life happens”, and that it can happen to anyone. Still, they will righfully have concerns about your ability to hit the ground running if you return to work. Technology changes. Workplace standards change. Laws change. How can you show that you are in tune with those changes and will be able to operate without disruption to their company?

 

Make sure you’re aware of any important changes or advancements in your profession and provide evidence of how you’ve stayed current. If you haven’t, step back a minute and take a course or seminar necessary to show that you are current.

 

 

Visit your contacts list

Did you continue to lunch occasionally with people in the same field to talk shop, even though you weren’t employed? Did you attend any events related to your profession, such as luncheons, lectures, or product fairs? These are all worthy of mentioning as it shows you never let your business suit gather dust.

 

Refer back to these events when relevant. For example, “I kept abreast of the latest techniques used in my field through meetings with former colleagues, attending professional luncheon discussions, and up-to-date industry reading material.”

 

If you didn’t, I get it. Time flies when life takes over and it’s easy to forget with whom you previously networked. But networking during your period off work is essential. Join professional groups online and begin to interact with people in your profession. Get reacquainted with industry jargon. Know who the newest big players are in your field.

 

 

Take stock of your soft skills

Even if you didn’t attend classes during your time off work, that doesn’t mean you didn’t develop some important skills. Soft skills are becoming increasingly more valued in the professional world.

 

Some unemployed people have said they learned many of these soft skills only during their time off. Such skills include: patience, resiliency, problem solving, improvisation, and better communication. All of these skill are vital in business.

 

 

 

“Soft skills can be defined as character traits or interpersonal aptitudes that affect your ability to work and interact with others,” writes Matthew Kerr on ResumeGenius. One reason they are so important, he points out, is these skills are applicable across all professions rather than being industry specific.

 

Be sure to demonstrate, with examples, how you’ve implemented those skills and how they will be applied to a potential position.

 

 

Putting it together

With information about your accomplishments, it’s time to put your resume together. Use the resume format preferred by that employer and/or in your industry. Be clear in your dates. When you get to the employment gap enter your story: a positive reason for unemployment, what you did while unemployed, what you learned, how you stayed current, and how you will benefit the potential employer.

 

Remember, being unemployed is not a crime. So put your chin up and embrace everything you learned during that time. Then, help prospective companies see how great you still are, too.

 

 

 

Did you ever successfully return to work after an extended period of unemployment? How did you address this employment gap in your resume?

 

 

 

 

 

Category: Cover Letters, Featured, Resumes, Telecommuting, Unemployment

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About the Author ()

Pamela La Gioia has been researching and writing about remote work since the early 1990's. She is CEO/Founder of Telework Recruiting, the leading provider of technical and professional remote career opportunities.

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