How to Handle a Gap on Your Resume

How to address a gap on your resume

Have you got a gap on your resume? Maybe you took time off to take care of an ailing parent, or go back to school, or travel the world, or to take care of your children. Whatever that reason, you can feel like your job hunt is going to be much harder than if that gap wasn’t there. Employers might assume the worst of you. If there’s no explanation, they may assume you’re a criminal or worse. Freelancers have gaps in their resumes all the time, so we should take note of them.


Be Honest About a Gap On Your Resume

Employers have the power to check with everywhere you’ve worked to see if your employment dates are real. A basic employment check is a par for the course, so don’t let something so ordinary be the reason you’re not hired. You have to be honest, but you don’t have to sabotage yourself. Jobs come and go, but if you lie in the initial interview, managers will wonder what else you’re lying about. Putting in one line in your cover letter about what you were doing instead will make a huge difference. For example, if you were raising a child: “2014-2019: Raising a family”  would increase the number of callbacks instead of just pretending that those years aren’t missing from your resume. If it is for a personal tragedy, put a line in on your cover letter.


Prepare For The Question

“What can you tell me about this gap on your resume?”   Be prepared ahead of time since it will almost definitely come up. Make sure you have a good answer ready and an answer for the unspoken question: are you ready to work now? If it’s a family or medical issue, how does the employer know that you don’t need to quit this new job to deal with that same issue again? Be clear in letting them know that you’re available to work now and the other concerns are no longer an issue for you.


Can You Spin It In A Positive Way?

Perhaps you’ve been to many interviews and no one has called you back. Perhaps that gap comes from dealing with a sensitive subject and everyone is constantly reminding you about it. Maybe you’re tired of just waiting for the next job but look at your gap as an opportunity.

For example:

Hiring Manager/Interviewer: “What happened at this last company, X?”

Interviewee:  “I was let go because I wasn’t a good fit. As a result, I was able to refocus on what I really want to do. I’ve researched your company extensively. I’d love to work here partly because of the (insert things company values).”

See how this is a great way to spin this back to the future? If this doesn’t work for you, then the next section is for you.


When You Definitely Can’t Spin It In A Positive Way

This can be harder when it’s a medical issue or a family member passing away. An example of a  professional response:  “I stayed home following the death of my (insert here). I am now ready to re-enter the workforce. I am excited about the new direction in my life and that’s why I’m happy to be here talking to you.”

Most employers want to know that you aren’t battling drug addiction or recently in jail. They’re looking to avoid any events that could taint your candidacy. They want to know that you’re ready to work again.

Explain your circumstances briefly, and then focus on what you did to get ready to get to a good place emotionally and psychologically. Do not give more personal information than necessary or leave the conversation on a sad note, as that will impact the impression the hiring manager gets from you.

Look at our example closer, since it has several parts “I stayed home following the (personal tragedy). I am ready to re-enter the workforce.(bridge back to interview/future) I am excited (upbeat/positive) about the new direction in my life (turning point) and that’s why I’m happy to be here talking to you (upbeat and appreciating their time).” You do not need to elaborate on your personal life any further than that, nor should you be expected to answer any further questions.


Final Note

Remember that lying on your resume is a really bad idea. Take a deep breath and acknowledge the interviewer’s question when you’re asked about your resume. Keep it together and don’t get defensive. Be confident and the interviewer will be confident in you.


Need More Tips?

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