5 Ways to Close Questionable Employment Gaps in Your Resume

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-businesswoman-gives-baby-bottle-adult-business-women-wearing-costume-supplied-her-newborn-daughter-office-workplace-image38998568You’ve got the skills, years of experience, and carefully selected references. You are ready to send that resume. Except, well, there’s the small matter of a gap in your employment history.

Recruiters and companies are known to question employment gaps in an applicant’s resume. It’s important your gaps don’t paint you as incompetent, unfit for work, unstable, or unemployable.

A short employment gap no longer than three months is nothing to worry about. The same goes for any employment gap no longer than one year prior to 2000. It is recent gaps and unemployment spanning a year or more that need to be addressed.

While taking a vacation or caring for your kids are an important and certainly enriching part of life, it may rub prospective employers the wrong way. By camouflaging and explaining any gaps in your resume, you’re taking a preemptive measure to put the tides back in your favor.

The Magician’s Guide to Hiding Employment Gaps in Plain Sight

  1. Were You Let Go? Say it as it is

Were you laid off because of a downsizing or company restructuring? Explain this in your cover letter. State why it happened, such as poor company performance, obsolete jobs, outsourcing or whatever reasons your previous employer provided.

  1. Camouflage the Gaps

Don’t list the months in your employment history, especially if most of your jobs span years. Take a look at the comparison below. Doesn’t the second one look better?

Physical Therapist, ABC Clinic
June 2003 – September 2009

Physical Therapist, XYZ Hospital
January 2010 – Present


Physical Therapist, ABC Clinic
2003 – 2009

Physical Therapist, XYZ Hospital
2010 – Present

  1. Have a Ready-Made Explanation for When the Recruiter Asks

Recruiters will always want to know the cause of your employment gap, so don’t be caught without a valid answer.

Explain what you did during that time, whether it’s taking a vacation, caring for your newborn, or roaming the world. An honest response is a much better way to handle it than fumbling for an excuse in the hopes that the recruiter won’t notice.

  1. Include “Non-Work” Work in Your Employment History

If you did anything like taking a class, pursuing your MBA, consulting, working in a startup, or volunteering, then put it in your employment history. That’s a sincere way to account for the time, instead of having a glaring two year gap in your resume.

  1. Don’t Turn Your Resume to a Novel

Your resume is like a short 30 second commercial. There’s not enough space to clearly explain everything — that’s what your cover letter is for. Don’t turn it into a personal essay… a few sentences on why you had to take a few months, or years, off is enough.

Recruiters are human. They have children, take vacations, get burned out, and switch careers, too, so they understand your reasons.

Whatever the reason for your gap in employment history is, being honest is still the best way to go. What’s important is you show people that you’re excited to get back to work.