A large unexplained gap in employment history may be a showstopper for employers. Why is that?
A long unexplained gap can sometimes give employers the wrong impression about both your capabilities and your personality. It may imply that you are not capable of landing a job. It may imply that you were ‘dishonorably discharged’ from your previous job. And worst of all, it may imply that you are too lazy and don’t care about your career. You want to show career progression and an increase in scope and responsibility as a result of your good work. You DON’T want to show career stagnation. Some people leave gaps on their resume and hope to be able to explain the gap in an interview. The trouble is, that the gaps might prevent you from getting to the interview stage.
So how do you explain the gap in your resume?
1. Emphasize why you left the previous job
Be it downsizing, budget cuts, or the position being moved to far away for you to relocate, make it known and clear why you left the previous job – already in the resume. Even if you left the previous job voluntarily, mention it. It’s perfectly acceptable to mention sabbaticals – and try to highlight what you did during the sabbatical and how it might have impacted you
2. Emphasize any activities you undertook during the gap to improve your professional standing
This relates to the previous tip as you should ALWAYS make sure to mention
- Any valuable experience: for example volunteer work or major personal projects
- Any certifications or courses you did during the gap
- Any freelance, consulting or contract work you’ve done. These activities show a huge sign that you have taken action and your career into your own hands.
3. Avoid negativity or blame
Even if your former employer handled your exit badly, avoid at all costs to bad mouth them. Come up with a sincere, simple way of summing up what happened.
“The former company hired a new Executive VP who decided to bring in his own people from his previous organization. It was a shock and disappointing, but the truth is that the time was probably right for me to pursue a new challenge”
4. Formatting the years on your resume
If you really want to avoid drawing attention to the dates and possible gaps of a few months between jobs, you can list only the years of employment and leave out the months.
For example, instead of:
Company A, January 2010 – January 2012
Company B, August 2012 – December 2014
Company A, 2010 – 2012
Company B, 2012 – 2014
You should still be prepared to answer questions about why you left Company A, but this will increase your chance of getting invited to an interview.
5. Prepare positive reasons
Be sure to prepare for questions and prepare your answer. Here are some tips on ways to formulate typical gaps in a positive way
- WRITE: I took six months out to immerse myself in a different culture and I feel that I have both gained a new perspective and learned some valuable life lessons. These months made me really ready to focus on my career
- DO NOT WRITE: I spent six months travelling because I was not ready to start working
- WRITE: I spent the last year caring for a sick relative. Their health is now recovered and I’m ready to re-enter the work force full-time
- DO NOT WRITE:: I had personal issues that I prefer not to discuss
- WRITE: Due to a recurring medical condition I was unable to continue my previous position. However, I have now returned to full health and I am ready to take on my next challenge
- DO NOT WRITE:: I have a recurring health problem that has made it difficult for me to hold down a job
Fair or unfair, as it may be, employers often worry about hiring someone coming back to work after a long gap. Especially in this industry where technology and processes change so quickly! Therefore, your challenge is to show that you have been keeping up with new developments and are 100% ready to go back full speed.