Gaps in employment happen. An unexpected layoff, a medical issue, or personal reasons can all lead to periods where you aren't working. The good news is that this experience is becoming more common, and employers are less leery of employment gaps in prospective job candidates.
A gap can still raise red flags when applying for jobs, though, especially if you try to gloss over or hide it. In this article, you'll learn how to address your employment gap correctly to leave a strong and positive first impression.
What Is an Employment Gap?
An employment gap is a period of at least nine months in which you were not employed. An employment gap can be caused by the following:
Taking time off from work to care for family members
Relocating for a spouse, children, or other reason
Wanting to travel or learn something new
Starting a business that didn't bear fruit
Economic conditions or other factors beyond your control
If you are currently in an employment gap and thinking about getting back to work, now is a great time to take a class or earn certification that builds your skills and shows you are using your time wisely.
Be Honest About the Gap
It might be tempting to ignore the gap or extend your employment dates to hide it, but a quick background or reference check will reveal the hole, and your dishonesty will disqualify you for the job. It's better to be honest and turn the gap into as much of a positive as possible.
You don't have to agonize about or highlight the gap too much. A concise and reasonable explanation will calm the hiring manager's worries so they can focus on your strengths and experience.
Less explanation is needed if you've had work experience after the gap. If your time not working was shorter than nine months, it probably isn't much of a concern, and you don't need to address it.
Don't exaggerate what you did during your gap. Be appropriately honest about your reasons. Hiring managers are people too! If possible, show how the gap added to your skill set and give a valid reason.
Show the Employment Gap in Your Experience Section
The location in your resume to show your employment gap is the experience section. Instead of just having a long period since your last job, use the space to present your gap as a sabbatical.
In the employment section, you want to include three things:
The start and end dates of your sabbatical
The reason for your employment gap
Any education, experience, or skills developed during that time
It may look something like this:
Sabbatical, June 2022–present
Took time off to help with my mother-in-law, who had Alzheimer's.
Volunteered as the event coordinator at children's elementary school—led their most successful fundraising event in five years.
Took Udemy classes in digital and social media marketing.
You can prove that you were productive and kept up with the latest trends by listing examples of things you learned during your employment gap. For example, if you were a manager at a tech company and kept up to date on new customer service trends and technology, this is an easy way to demonstrate your skills.
Turn Your Employment Gap Into a Strength
In your resume, turn your employment gap into a strength. By addressing it upfront and letting the employer know why you took the gap and what you learned or gained during that time, you present yourself as someone with a good work ethic.
Life can be complicated and doesn't always go the way we planned. Employers understand this, too. With the right information, they can see your employment gap as part of what makes you a strong candidate for the job.
Address the Gap in Detail in Your Cover Letter
If you include a cover letter with your resume, you can add a couple of sentences about the employment gap to add detail that doesn't fit easily in the resume. This can be as simple as a sentence or two explaining what you learned from being out of work and how those skills will help you on the job.
You might also mention how much time away from work has improved your skillset, which can show employers that they are hiring someone with experience who has proven themselves over time. For example: "After my two-year hiatus from employment, I value my career, the teamwork, and the growth it brings more than ever before."
An Employment Gap Can Be Part of Life
Don't stress out about your employment gap. It will not stop you from getting a job, but you do need to address it in your cover letter and resume.
By sharing what happened during this time and how it impacted your life, you show potential employers your humanity and the strengths you bring to the position. Hiring managers and employers will appreciate your proactive approach.
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