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Resume writing: How to explain employment gap on a resume

Published: Monday 14th September 2020

When hirers notice employment gap in a resume, they are bound to ask why. There are several circumstances in which a person has an employment gap; be it personal reasons, educational or professional, life happens and sometimes employment gaps are inevitable. Explaining gaps in resume profiles due to professional reasons is simpler when asked in an interview, maybe you were studying for a better position or took up a master’s course to elevate your knowledge. However, it can be an uncomfortable situation to explain to interviewers if the reasons are personal, say, caring for a family member, healing your mental health or touring the world.

young asian woman smiling and holding resume while interviewing as candidate for job.

Many organizations are now changing their perception about not holding an employment gap against the candidates, but several still remain traditional. Since there is a fine line between owning your life decisions and over-sharing, this can be a slippery slope to walk in an interview. 

This blog will discuss tips to help you bag a job while not letting a gap affect your impact on the hirers. Below are 6 ways to honestly explain your employment gaps on a resume.

  • Avoid oversharing: Whether you were touring the forests of Sri Lanka, caring for a newborn or grieving over the loss of a loved one, try to not overshare. You can accidentally blurt too many personal details and divulge in oversharing if you’re not prepared well in advance. In a moment of anxiety and nervousness, you may say things that are much better kept between yourself, your family or your therapist. This is because strangers who you have just met may not have the empathetic tools to understand or process your experience. 
  • Simple explanation: If spontaneity during interviews makes you anxious, be prepared with an answer beforehand. This will help you cut out avoidable details to keep the explanation to your gaps in resume simple. Remember that your taking a gap was a personal decision which may or may not have been planned. Regardless, own up to it without displaying regret or shame over it by staying to the point and sticking to facts and why it was necessary.
  • Emphasize on new changes and skills acquired: Whether personal or professional, growth is growth and your gap would have helped you with it more than you think. Include in your explanation what you have learnt and how you used the time to become a better version of yourself. If you were on a break  for mental health reasons, you can state skills such as emotional regulation, conflict management, discernment, and more that will help you wonderfully as a professional. The point of this segment is to show the up-side of your employment gaps.
  • Talk about how you’re prepared to re-enter the professional world: Now that you’re here interviewing with the hirers, what makes you think that you’re all set to re-enter the professional realm? Mention how you feel prepared to resume your career and why you think now is the right time to do it. Maybe you have overcome your grief, your child is grown enough to be left with a babysitter, your knowledge base is up to date or you have healed; use your experiences positively to show your preparedness.
  • Display confidence in your ability: Above all, the most important advice for explaining employment gaps in resume profiles is a deep sense of confidence. Your conviction in your decision will show and they will accept it for what it is rather than judging you for it, because the organizations are concerned about your skills and how you have the ability to stand for your decisions made, even employment gaps.
  • Keep it brisk and move on: Now that you have reached the last piece of advice, you may wonder how long does the explanation have to be. Rather than dragging it along, broach the subject with tactfulness and move on quickly. A word of caution would be against moving on too quickly, which could be misinterpreted as avoidance or nonchalance. 

A great tip to integrate all the advice above would be to script your answer or the main points well in advance so you have an idea about the depth of the explanation and the time you need to take. As always, you can refer to our resume building blogs in the jobseeker blogs and career guides sections of our website.

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