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How to explain resume gaps

Author: Viktoria Stretskite


If there is a big gap on your resume, you should be ready to explain it to a potential employer. Your goal is to convince the company that you stayed away from work not because no one wanted to hire you. If the break took no more than half a year and it was for personal reasons, HR managers might not mind it. However, they will be likely to ask questions to you.

7 most common reasons for resume gaps

Even the most committed and reliable professionals take breaks from work because they:

  • Have health issues or accidents.
  • Need time to cope with a death in the family.
  • Start a family.
  • Adopt kids.
  • Take care of elderly relatives.
  • Make a transition between jobs.
  • Take a vacation between jobs or contracts

It would be wise to briefly mention the reason in the resume itself.

What to do if your gap lasted longer than half a year

Some situations require detailed explanations, while others are self-evident. Here are the tips that should enable you to impress the interviewer.

  • If you lost a person who was dear to you, it’s not necessary to go deep into details about the situation. HR managers are tactful enough to understand that. Just mention the reason for your gap from work in your resume in one sentence. This recommendation is also valid for situations when you couldn’t work because you or someone in your family were critically ill.
  • Pregnancy or adoption of one or several kids doesn’t require an explanation either. Just mention this reason with one phrase in your resume.
  • If you suffered from depression or other mental issues, you don’t need to specify your diagnosis unless it prevented you from carrying out your professional responsibilities.
  • If you volunteered for a project or an organization, many employees will appreciate your social responsibility. If you got recommendations from your colleagues or supervisors on that project, it would be great! While volunteering, you must have made a lot of useful contacts. Don’t hesitate to ask these people for references and maybe job openings. It’s a norm for networking that is connected with charitable projects.
  • It would be a mistake to leave a gap in your resume because you were busy with a job that was not relevant to your primary skills and experience. For instance, you may be a junior mobile developer who spent three months working as a waiter. It would be wise to include this fact in your resume and provide a compelling explanation for that. Maybe, it was your parents’ cafe, your dad underwent surgery and you had to be present in the venue every day to control the business and stay in touch with its clients.
  • Don’t forget to include internships in your resume. From the HR manager’s point of view, it’s just as important as having a job. Internships accentuate your expertise. They prove that you genuinely love your profession and you’re ready to work for a while even when you’re not paid.
  • Emphasize the fact that when you were busy with your job search, you kept improving your skills. Tell the interviewer about the online courses that you completed while you were unemployed, the job-specific books that you read, the consultations that you provided to younger colleagues and one-off tasks that you handled.

Be honest, succinct and professional. If you feel nervous about the gap, let the representative of the hiring organization know about it. There is nothing wrong with moderate stress at a job interview.

Avoid telling lies because facts are very easy to check. Back up your words with evidence, whenever possible. Stay positively minded because confidence and optimism are the two eternal values of every job seeker.

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