Although having a gap in your employment history is not always a deal-breaker, it can be if you approach it incorrectly. In fact, it might impact your job search in negatively. However, It doesn’t have to if you’re prepared!  The two times that your employment gap will come up is during an interview and in your resume. As we head into the summer hiring season for many new high school and college grads, and those going back to work after a career break, this short and sweet article on resume gaps provides some useful tips that will help you to explain an employment gap in your resume:

Avoid Functional Resumes

If you have an employment gap or maybe no work experience at all, you need to be straightforward about it instead of trying to hide dates and other information (little to no information). If you try to hide the gaps, the hiring/recruiting manager will be able to tell that you are hiding something. On the first page, your resume should have a chronological work history, which includes company names, dates of employment, job titles, and your key responsibilities.

Be sure to avoid writing a functional resume that will separate your employment history from your skills. Although you might see many recommendations to use this style on different sites, you should not follow them. If a recruiting manager realizes that you are hiding something, you will be less likely to land a job interview. The other small tip with functional resumes is many hiring managers don’t understand how to read them as well as a chronological resume as they are a less common resume format.

What Should You Put on Your Resume?

Depending on why you have a gap in your employment history, you can choose to list specifics in the work history session of your resume. The following is an example of how to showcase a work history gap:

2006-2008: left the workforce to take care of aging family member who needed full-time care

2008-2009: sales manager, company name (list your responsibilities here)

2009-2012: sales associate, company name (list of responsibilities)

If your reason for having an employment gap is too complicated to explain in a simple sentence, you should write a cover letter explaining your reasons. However, you still have to put something on the resume, no matter how brief. This shows the hiring manager your willingness for transparency and increases the chances your cover letter will be read, which means you might land an interview.

Which brings me to my next point: You do know the purpose of a cover letter is to land you a job interview, NOT an actual JOB. This means that including a bit of information about your employment gap will serve the right purpose, even if you fail to explain the full reason. If you were kept away from work by a temporary challenge, it would be a good idea to explain how you have resolved the issue and mention that you are ready to begin anew.

A recruiting manager will want to be reassured you are reliable, diligent, and loyal to the company and the position for which you are being interviewed. Make sure to include everything that you did during your employment gap to stay current within your field: starting a company, completing a degree, teaching, or performing some research – these are all things you want to mention as activities you engaged in during your time away from the workforce.

Be Proactive

If you are having a hard time getting a job interview and you think the employment gaps are to blame, you should try to be proactive. You can use this time off to advance your skills by taking a course, applying for a voluntary position, or seeking professional counseling. This will show your potential employers that you are taking the necessary measures to get back on track.  Moreover, it will set your resume apart. If you cannot find a course or voluntary position that is fitting, look for other ways to show off your talents.

Now that your resume and cover letter are prepped, it is also important to keep a watch out for job posting activity in your field of interest. This does not mean looking at job boards every minute, every hour or even every day; however, it is helpful to subscribe to job boards to keep abreast of new positions available that appeal to your skills and interests.

Reasons for Employment Gaps

Of course, there are many reasons why people take career breaks.  They include:

Traveling – you can say that you took some time off to learn about a different culture and have gained a new perspective.

Family problems – if you have spent the past year caring for a sick relative, you should tell the truth. Moreover, you need to reiterate that you are ready to join the workforce again.

Illness – say what you were suffering from and explain how you are better and ready to work.

It is normal to have a gap in your employment history and you should explain it properly. Potential employers need to see your enthusiasm to join the workforce again. The workforce needs qualified candidates like you. When it is your time to re-enter, ensure you’re prepared and the rest will work itself out!