Explaining Resume Gaps During Your Next Job Search

Posted November 3, 2019

When an applicant is seeking a job, a sizeable gap in work history can be a red flag for a hiring manager because of what it suggests, as opposed to what it says explicitly.

A large work history gap can suggest you're not capable of landing a job, you were fired from a previous job for bad behavior, or you aren't concerned about your career progression.

Even if none of these things are true, you have to take a look at any gaps in your work history and be capable of framing them in a positive light. You might think you can explain away gaps in your work history in an interview, but one or more large gaps can keep you from getting to an interview. Therefore, it's essential to acknowledge gaps up front, in a resume or cover letter. Doing so puts you in control of your career narrative, rather than letting a hiring manager fill in the blanks.

The following actions can help you to take control of your career narrative when you've have had one or more gaps in your work history.

If It Wasn't Your Fault, Say So

Sometimes, people lose their job through not fault of their own; due to a downsizing or corporate restructuring. If this happened to you and it triggered an extended period of unemployment, you need to make it very clear in your resume (perhaps with a little note after your end date).

Most employers are willing to overlook work history gaps that began this way, so don't be shy about letting people know if this was your situation.

If You Left Voluntarily, Say So

Employers are also more likely to forgive a work history gap if the applicant left a job voluntarily. Ideally, you should have a good rationale for leaving. Going back to school, caring for a sick loved one, raising a family, getting away from a toxic work environment or taking a sabbatical to pursue a passion are all very good reasons for quitting a job.

Don't Look Back in Anger

If you were fired, the best thing you can do is to talk about the positives you took away from the job. Placing blame or trash talking a past employer aren't going to score you any points with hiring managers, so don't do those things.

Be Sure to Mention Productive Activities During the Gap

More important than the reason you left is what you did while you weren't working. Be sure to mention any classes that were taken, certifications earned, or freelance/ volunteer work performed. Even things like taking care of a sick family member's medical bills or organizing activities for your children could be considered relevant activities worth mentioning, especially if these activities are relevant to the job you're seeking.

Let Us Help You Address Your Job Search Challenges

At Ambassador Personnel, we regularly help people address the various challenges they are facing in a job search, including gaps in work history. Please contact us today to find out how a full-service staffing firm can help you.