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7 Tips for Explaining Gaps in Employment on Your Resume to Prospective Employers

February 12th, 2018 Written by: Molly Masterson

Getting laid off, fired, or plainly leaving a job is a difficult thing to handle. In fact, a recent study found that the lingering mental effects from being laid off or fired can take longer to recover from than a breakup.

As is the case after a breakup, many people find themselves taking some time before getting back on the proverbial horse and looking for a job. In fact, the most recent unemployment statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average period of unemployment is about 23.6 weeks as of December 2017.

But, when you’re looking for a new job and you’re sending out your resume to prospective employers, your employment gap, is going to stand out. It will also be a topic of conversation when you interview.

So how should you go about explaining gaps in employment?

Below we will explore some tips for how you can address your employment gap on your resume and how you can control the narrative when interviewing.

Explaining Gaps in Employment on Your Resume

Follow these resume tips to explain gaps in your employment right off the bat with employers.

1. Don’t Be Vague

Because honesty is always the best policy, don’t omit or try to hide anything on your resume. More often than not, excluding dates or information will only make an employer more curious or skeptical about your work history. Avoid making employers question your honesty or past work experience by being clear and upfront about the dates of your employment gap.

2. Detail What You’ve Done in the Meantime

Unemployment is a tough time for anyone and it’s easy to fall into a slump. But during that time, it’s important that you stay active and dedicated to moving forward. Show employers that you didn’t let your employment gap stop you in your tracks by detailing what you were up to during your time off. Maybe you took a class, attended a workshop, volunteered for an organization, or picked up a new hobbie. Add those experiences to your resume to show that even though you weren’t getting paid, you were still working in some regard.

Volunteered for the Animal Humane Society for six months, assisting in animal care and facility operations.

Explaining Gaps in Employment in an Interview

The resume is only half of the battle. Impress employers in person with how you’ve handled your employment gap with these suggestions.

3. Bring It Up

Employers have already seen your resume and are likely prepared to ask you about your employment gap in the job interview. But instead of following their prompts and direction, control the narrative by bringing it up yourself. This way, you have the power to explain your employment gap on your own terms whereas an interview question may lead you in a different direction that omits important details. For example, if an interviewer asks you a close-ended question about your unemployment, you might not even have the chance to explain why.

As I’m sure you noticed on my resume, I did have an employment gap of four months in between my two previous positions. I parted on good terms with my employer and used the time to really focus on myself and figure out what I wanted in my next career move.

For potential questions that might get thrown your way, check out these 14 common job interview questions and how to answer them.

4. Be Honest About Why You Left

When an employer sees an employment gap, they will naturally have questions about why you weren’t working during that time. And if you leave it up to interpretation, employers may make the wrong assumptions about you as a job seeker.

Instead of leaving it up to chance, address why you either left your previous employer or were let go. Perhaps there were extreme budget cuts at the company and it made the most fiscal sense to remove your department. If you left on your own terms, explain why. Candor is your best bet here as it shows employers that you’re honest with them.

I ended up leaving the role because I felt that it was a poor fit for me as well as for the business. I ultimately felt that I can better serve an organization in a role like this one, where I can really showcase my skills.

5. Share What You’ve Learned

Unemployment isn’t an uncommon experience with 40.7% of the U.S. population either lacking a job or not looking for a job right now. But what employers are looking for are job candidates that can learn from their experiences, move on, and become great employees. Show employers that you have that capacity to learn from both positive and negative experiences by articulating the lessons you learned from your former job and from your unemployment.

While I was unemployed, I learned that I’m the happiest when I’m kept busy and working. It’s really made me eager to dive back into the workforce.

6. Be Confident

If you aren’t sure that you’re explaining your employment gap to the best of your ability, employers won’t be sure either. Make a great first impression regardless of the gaps in your employment history by remaining confident in yourself and your answers throughout the job interview. To exude confidence, just relax, be yourself, and communicate your answers with clarity and positivity.

7. Keep It Positive

Explaining an exit from any job is naturally a difficult subject to talk about as it likely had a negative impact on your life. However, even though it may have impacted you negatively, it’s important that you keep a positive tone throughout the discussion. This shows employers that you are still optimistic in your job search and don’t hold any bad blood from your past work experience. Even if your exit from your last job was tumultuous, you don’t want to taint your job search with negativity.

Use the rest of our job seeking tips to ensure you have a successful interview and the best chance of securing the job offer.

Ready for Your Next Job Interview?

Job interviews are pressure-filled, stress-inducing environments that even the most qualified candidates can falter in. If you nabbed a job interview, make sure you go in fully prepared by reviewing these job interview preparation tips.

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