Life happens. Through the course of your career, maybe there have been some pauses along the way- and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Simply put, a gap in employment is any period when you are not working. This might range from a few weeks to a few months to a couple of years.
There could be many reasons for gaps in employment ranging from health issues, relocating to a new city or state, caring for an ill person at home, looking after your child, taking time to travel, starting a new business, or pursuing studies.
While a glaring gap in your resume could put a doubt in the minds of a hiring manager, here are some ways to help navigate the conversation throughout a new job search.
Change Your Resume Format
A typical résumé format highlights timelines along with your work experience. If you have less experience and want to make your employment gaps less obvious, use a functional résumé format. Instead of focusing on your whole experience, this approach emphasizes your accomplishments and skills.
Fill your résumé with skills, competencies, and qualifications at the beginning. After you mention your qualifications you can go ahead and note the chronological order of your work experience towards the end of your résumé. This way the reader’s eye will fall on your qualifications first and your timeline will not be highlighted.
Sometimes it is advisable to remove certain jobs from your résumé if they were only for brief periods. Generally, if a job lasted less than three months you need not mention it.
Fill the Gap Wisely
A good way to disguise an employment gap is by not mentioning the month and only including the yours that you were employed. For instance, if you were employed from February 2010 to August 2012 and then worked at another job from October 2012 to the present, do you need not mention the month and include 2010 to 2012 and 2012 to present as the timeline.
Provide a Background
Cover letters are an excellent method to interact with potential employers and may be used to explain any gaps in your career history. A résumé is more concise, however, a cover letter gives you more room to elaborate.
Be honest and not try to hide the reasons for your employment gaps. Whether you are looking at a career change, you were laid off during the pandemic, or you took time off to take care of your child at home, being transparent is important. Other than mentioning the reason for your employment gap in your cover letter, be prepared to also answer it at the interview.
Show Your Growth
Just because you were not employed does not mean that you did not gain experience or grow during your employment gap years. If you were studying you can show that you gained experience and knowledge in the field that you want to work in presently.
Show how you grew in personal development and how you developed your skillset and hobbies during this time. If you are caring for children or looking after a family member, show that you have good qualities including support caregiving and dedication towards other individuals. If you were traveling, show how you learned about different cultures and have gained new perspectives and skills.
Keep in mind that if you are planning on returning to work, try to fill your gap wisely by taking professional courses, developing your skills, or even doing volunteer work. This will give you a competitive advantage in a diverse workplace. Employers are always looking to follow an inclusive diversity recruitment strategy and a gap in your employment history should not affect your career so long as you can explain it well and maintain a positive attitude.