How to Explain Gaps in Resumes (With Tips and Reasons)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated August 16, 2022 | Published October 18, 2021
Updated August 16, 2022
Published October 18, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Related: How to Explain Career Gaps In an Interview AND On Your Resume
In this step-by-step tutorial, Sinéad helps you explain career gaps in an interview and offers great ways to tackle interview questions like this.
Unemployment during certain periods in the past is popular, and this can lead to your resume having gaps in it. Resume gaps are usually an item of consideration among many hiring managers, and they want to know why. Understanding how to explain gaps in resumes can help you bypass this minor disadvantage and secure your dream job. In this article, we discuss how to explain gaps in your resume, explore other tips for dealing with resume gaps, and identify common reasons for a resume gap.
How to explain gaps in resume
Here are some of the steps you can follow to explain gaps in resumes:
1. Prepare to answer questions
If you have a gap in your resume, it's likely the hiring manager requests an explanation. In that instance, earlier preparation can help you offer a confident and well-thought answer. You can prepare ahead by identifying the reason for the resume gap. After identifying the reason, prepare a brief explanation for the hiring manager. Additionally, some reasons may be personal, so it's important you determine the extent to which you want to disclose your reasons to the hiring manager. Finally, you can practise your answer, so you can deliver exceptionally when it's time to give your explanation.
2. Be honest
Like with most other aspects of job applications, honesty is the best action when explaining resume gaps. If you have a resume gap, it's more likely that the hiring manager detects it. Pretending the gap isn't there or trying to cover it up with dates can cause the hiring manager to make assumptions, which may not favour you. Similarly, if the hiring manager finds out, it can hinder your chances, as they're now more likely to believe it's for a negative reason. Again, the best option is pre-emptively explaining the reason.
3. Explain in your resume
As an extension of being honest, a great approach is to include the gap in your resume. Acknowledging the gap in your resume shows you have nothing to hide and allows you to get ahead of the situation. When explaining in your resume, keep it brief and go straight to the point. Again, ensure you provide genuine reasons to make it easier for the hiring manager to overlook the resume gap. Here's an example of including a resume gap:
August 2020 - June 2021
I experienced a ghastly accident that made me lose my right hand and leg mobility. Five surgeries and many intense physiotherapy sessions later, I've recovered full use of all my limbs, and I can now engage in my favourite sports again.
4. Assure the hiring manager it won't reoccur
The major concern about resume gaps for hiring managers is the possibility of reoccurrence. Replacing a bad hire can be costly, so hiring managers are particularly cautious of unfavourable signs. Regardless, once you convince the hiring manager that you're not a risk anymore, they're likely to overlook the gap. You can convince the hiring manager that you're not a risk by providing a genuine reason for the resume gap and proving that it won't reoccur. For example, if your resume gap was due to a serious illness, you can give a medical report showing that relapse is unlikely.
5. Include referrals
A great way to reduce the effect of resume gaps is by including referrals. Whatever suspicions the hiring manager may have are likely to reduce if you have reputable individuals vouching for you. You can speak to colleagues or your supervisor at your previous workplace about a referral. In such cases, the more renowned the individual, the better. Including a referral that the hiring manager knows or respects can help dispel any bias, the resume gap may cause.
6. DIscuss valuable skills you gained during the period
While it's preferable not to have any, you can still turn your resume gap into an advantage. To do that, you can discuss any extracurricular activities you engaged in and the transferrable skills you learned. For example, if you were a soccer coach for your child's team, you can mention that it helped you develop leadership and teamwork skills. Similarly, if you were away from work due to certain challenges, you can mention they helped you become a better professional. For example, if you spent time recovering from a bad accident, you can mention that it taught you perseverance.
7. Tailor your resume to the role
While a resume gap is a disadvantage, a hiring manager can't discard a good resume just because of it. Tailoring your resume to the role can help improve your chances. To do this, you can study the job description carefully. Next, find the experience you gained during your gap that aligns with those in the job description.
Similarly, you can also research the company through its website and social media. You can contact past or present employees and review the resumes they submitted. This can help you identify what the company prioritizes in a candidate, informing how you create your resume.
8. Consider a cover letter
A cover letter is a brief document that usually accompanies a resume and provides explanations for the qualifications on the resume. The fact that the cover letter explains what's on the resume makes it a good reason to explain your resume gap in it. Nonetheless, remember that the cover letter enhances your resume, so don't spend too much time explaining a resume gap. Explaining briefly ensures you have time for other relevant matters.
9. Consider a functional resume format
A functional resume prioritizes your skills and projects over actual work experience. Unlike the popular chronological format, the functional resume replaces the work experience and academic background sections with skills and projects. That makes the functional resume a good option for those with gaps in their resume. Note that most hiring managers still show a preference for the traditional chronological resume. It's important you do your research before deciding on this format.
Other tips for dealing with resume gaps
Here are some other tips you can follow in managing your resume gaps effectively:
Keep your explanation short
While it may be a source of worry for you, remember that the resume gap isn't the most important part of your resume. It's important you keep your explanation short so that you can move on to more relevant details. Depending on the reason, two or three lines are sufficient to explain a resume gap.
Not every resume gap matters
While honesty is important during job applications, it's also essential you're strategic with the information you disclose. You can choose not to explain some resume gaps. For example, if the gap occurred seven or ten years ago, it's unlikely to bother the hiring manager. Explaining a gap that's less than six months with job searching is also an option. Lastly, while job-hopping isn't ideal, it doesn't count as a resume gap.
Keep your resume gaps short
A resume gap can be a serious disadvantage, especially when you're applying for a competitive role. It is best to act preemptively and keep your resume gaps to the barest minimum. Even if you're between jobs, you can engage yourself with freelancing or providing consultancy services. You may engage in volunteer activities to gain skills you can include on your resume.
The fact that your resume has gaps doesn't make you a bad candidate. Demonstrating confidence in your abilities and qualifications can help the hiring manager realize that. Pay attention to your body language and certain cues like sitting upright and maintaining eye contact to portray confidence during interviews.
Good reasons for a resume gap
Here are some good reasons for having a resume gap:
Accidents and illnesses: This is a reasonable reason for a resume gap as they're unavoidable. Ensure you let the hiring manager know that you're fully recovered.
Family affairs: You may have a gap in your resume to have children or take care of an ailing family member. When giving this reason, you can mention some skills you learned through it.
Self-discovery: The growing recognition of the importance of mental health makes this a viable option. Ensure you include what you learned in your journey of self-discovery and how it can make you a better employee.
Failed business: Including a failed business on your resume demonstrates many skills like confidence, risk-taking, and initiative. In addition, you can explain why it failed and what you learned briefly to avoid the hiring manager making assumptions.
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