How to Deal with Resume Gaps
March 14, 2021
So, you've got a gap in your resume - it could be months or years; regardless, you're ready to get back into the job market, and you're unsure how to address the gap(s). First, know that you're not alone! Many people have months- or years-long gaps in their resumes, and given the circumstances of the last year or so, it seems that there's less stigma surrounding resume gaps than ever before.
There's a lot of talk around working to cover the time gap, but that's not always your best strategy - oftentimes, it's better to be proactive and address the gap right from the start. Lying on your resume is never a good idea - here, honesty is the best policy.
Here are a few useful tips to help you address your work history gap:
You may want to address your gap in both your resume and cover letter - sometimes, cover letters don't get read, so don't assume it'll be understood just in your cover letter alone. Regardless, you'll likely still need to answer a question about it in your interview, anyway, so be prepared to at least discuss it with an interviewer.
Be Honest (Without Going Into Too Much Detail)
If you left your previous job to take care of a sick loved one, you experienced illness yourself, or for any other personal reason, you probably aren't too keen to share about it, and that's okay. If your personal reason for leaving is no longer keeping you from working, you can simply state that you've taken time for a personal or family issue that has since resolved, and you're ready to get back to work. It's unlikely you'll be asked to share much more than that.
If you were furloughed or laid off, you'll certainly need to state that, but it's helpful to have some evidence of the good work you're capable of and the circumstances that caused you to leave - this will support your resume and cover letter. It can come in the form of work evaluations, professional references, or testimonials.
Focus on Your Current Skills
While you'll need to address your gap head-on, remember that no candidate is perfect, so there's no need to attempt that. Hiring managers might be impressed that you're so upfront about your work history, and that gives you the control to make the impression you're looking to make.
Address what caused the gap, and go on to say what you did during that time that prepared you for the role you're currently applying for. You can also discuss previous skills learned at other jobs, and never hesitate to talk about any courses or continuing education you've done during that time away.
Highlight Experiences During the Gap
Plenty of experiences can bolster your work history, even during your time away from a traditional job - if you've picked up volunteering, joined and participated in a professional organization, started a business, freelanced or consulted, taken courses, or done anything else to develop yourself professionally, say it!
You can highlight these in any portion of your resume, so long as it's relevant to the type of work you do. Courses may go under your education section while volunteering may be applicable under your work experience section - it all depends on the type of work you're pursuing, your work history, and the experience you gained during your gap time.
All in all, there's no need to panic over a time gap in your resume. Be honest and upfront about it, and explain what you did in the meantime that helped you grow professionally. Know what skills the job you're applying for is in need of, and highlight what you have to offer. Don't get stuck on it - it's only one small part of a larger process, and it may actually end up working in your favor at the end of the day.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of tips for building your resume, so if you still want to learn more, you can always contact a professional resume writer or reach out to a career services center.
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