How to Explain Resume Gaps


“Mind the gap!”

Even if you’ve never used the London Underground, you’ve probably heard this phrase reminding you to be mindful of the dangerous gap between the train and platform. If you fall through, you may never be heard from again (pleasant thought, right?).

A gap in your employment history can be just as intimidating:

  • If you’ve been out of work for a while, it’s natural to doubt your abilities. You may feel as though you’ll never find another great job.
  • Gaps in your resume can be viewed as a red flag. With little other compensating information to offset spotty employment, recruiters could potentially assume the worst about your job performance and/or reliability.

Should you fear an employment gap?

Absolutely not! There’s no more reason to let employment inconsistency knock you out of contention for a job than there is to fall under a train. If you’re mindful and address your employment gap effectively, you can successfully bridge to a fantastic new opportunity. Here’s how:          

How should you address your employment gap when applying?

  • Don’t panic. Employers realize there are several valid reasons for resume gaps: maternity/paternity leave, career change, illness, a layoff, caring for an ailing relative, for example. The key is to create an ironclad plan for proactively explaining it, so you stay in the running for a job you really deserve.
  • Use a functional resume. If you have a lengthy or multiple employment gap(s), switch to a functional resume format. Unlike the traditional reverse chronological resume, a functional format focuses on your skills and accomplishments, as opposed to your dates of employment.  Whichever format you decide to use, however, always be honest. If you fudge dates, it may come back to haunt you.
  • Take the bull by the horns. In your cover letter, briefly describe the reason for your period of unemployment. Don’t get bogged down in a lot of detail; you can explain further during the interview.

How should you address an employment gap in the interview?

  • Be brief and professional. If you are asked about your employment gap, cut to the chase. The interviewer doesn’t need to know the details of health issues or personal circumstances. Stick to the facts, concisely state the cause of your absence from the workforce, and move on.
  • Don’t blame or apologize. Whatever the reason for your lapse in employment, don’t seek out sympathy, express bitterness or make apologies. Stay upbeat. Show you are eager to move forward and ready to work NOW.
  • Explain the upsides of your downtime. Did you attend classes? Volunteer? Read business books? Teach yourself a new skill? Tackle a big project you wouldn’t otherwise have time for? Overcome some sort of adversity? These experiences show that you took control of a tough situation, and they also demonstrate your work ethic, motivation and personal character.

Out of work?

Get back in the game with PrideStaff. With offices nationwide, we offer a wide range of temporary, temp-to-hire and other transitional opportunities to:

  • End your resume gap
  • Gain experience and sharpen your job skills
  • Stay motivated and positive
  • Get your foot in the door with your dream employer
  • Earn money while you search for your next full-time job. 

Contact the PrideStaff office in your area to find out more about great local job opportunities.