How to Explain Gaps in Employment in an Interview or Resume

Gaps in employment can happen to anyone for any number of reasons. Maybe you took some time off to care for a family member, were in search for the right job fit, or perhaps you just needed to take a few months to recharge. Whatever the reason, space between your jobs doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker when it comes to finding a job— and they can actually add value to your resume.

How to write employment gaps in your resume

Your resume will be the first impression an employer has of you, and you may be worried that a glaring space in your experience may turn them away before you have a chance to explain. Here are some tips when it comes to including employment gaps on your resume.

1. Minimize appearance of gaps by including only years of tenure.

The first step is to minimize the appearance of any gaps in employment by including only years, rather than months, on your resume. This helps prevent potential employers from making assumptions about why you were unemployed and instead focuses them on the larger picture of your work history.

2. Explain gaps as their own experience. 

The second tip is to include a brief explanation of any gaps as their own experience. This could be a short sentence explaining the gap, along with any relevant skills you may have acquired or put to use during that time. Even if your time away was for family reasons, you can note the experience that you gained during that time.

Giving a brief explanation will instantly clear up any questions that a recruiter may have about the employment gap.

3. Provide more information in your cover letter.

Don’t be afraid to provide more information or context in a cover letter, if needed. A cover letter allows for more flexibility than would be possible within the confines of a traditional one-page resume format. By including additional details here, you are able to add further clarity around any areas which may need further explanation without feeling like it takes away from the overall professional story presented by your resume experience section.    

4. Use a different format               

Consider using a different format for your resume altogether, such as one that highlights job experience most pertinent to the role rather than just listing all prior roles chronologically, which may draw attention to any existing gaps.

If you have taken courses relevant to your current role during periods of unemployment these can also be included, as this shows dedication and staying current within the profession even if not employed full-time elsewhere at time.  

5. Include personal projects that you might have taken part in during your time off.

Finally, include any personal projects— volunteering, podcasting, blogging, freelancing, etc.— that you might have worked on during your time off. These can help fill those gaps and show potential employers that you used those times productively and are ready for the next big thing! 

How to explain gaps in employment in an interview

You’ve made it to the interview process— congrats! Your employment gap may come up again in conversation, but it’s no reason to fret. Keep the following tips in mind.

1. Be upfront and honest.

The first thing you should do if you’re asked about gaps in your employment history is to be upfront and honest.

There’s no need to try to hide it or make excuses— just be honest about what happened. For example, if you took some time off to care for a family member, simply say that. If you were on sabbatical, say that. Honesty is always the best policy.

2. Reframe your gap as a positive.

You might worry that employers will see your gap as a sign of unreliability or lack of ambition, but there are ways to reframe it that can make your gap into an asset. Here are a few examples to keep in mind.

Reframing a sabbatical

If you’ve taken a break from work to travel, this is an opportunity to highlight the skills and experience you gained during your travels. Employers are often looking for candidates who have transferable skills such as problem-solving, creativity, resourcefulness and resilience— all great qualities which can come out of taking some time off.

For example, if you spent some time abroad working on projects with local communities or businesses, be sure to emphasize the interpersonal skills you developed while working with others. 

Reframing time spent job searching

If you took an extended period of unemployment due to a rough job market, don’t feel embarrassed. Instead use the opportunity to showcase how proactive and determined you are when pursuing new opportunities. Emphasize that you were actively taking the time to find the right role and company for you— not just taking the first job that was available.

Highlight any additional activities or classes you took during that time as evidence that even though there weren’t many jobs available at the time, you still took advantage of every opportunity for growth that presented itself. 

Reframing caring for a loved one

If your employment gap came from caring for children, a family member, or an elderly relative, this can be seen as evidence of your commitment and loyalty. You could also focus on how it has made you better prepared for the role you applied for. In addition to helping care for someone else, chances are good that you acquired useful communication, management, and leadership skills during this period too! 

Reframing a business failure

Finally, if your gap was due to business failure then highlight what lessons you’ve learned from this experience and how they’ll help make you successful in the future. This could include anything from managing stress or dealing with tight deadlines more effectively to honing marketing and sales techniques further— all valuable insights which could prove invaluable in future roles. 

3. Reiterate that you’re excited to join their team.

Finally, remind the interviewer that even though there’s a gap in your employment history, you’re still excited about joining their team and contributing to their company. This is your chance to reiterate why you’re the best candidate for the job and how you can help their business succeed. By emphasizing your interest and excitement, you can help put the interviewer’s mind at ease and prove that even though there’s a gap in your resume, you’re still the right person for the job.

The bottom line

Gaps in employment don’t have to be a dealbreaker when it comes to finding a job. By being upfront and honest about why there’s a gap in your employment history and sharing any skills or experience you might have gained during that time, you can demonstrate that you’re a great candidate for the role.