How to Deal With a Resume Gap

January 5, 2016

by Michelle Kruse 

The list of reasons for a gap in your resume is seemingly limitless. Maybe it was time to take a few years off to raise your children, your original career plans may no longer match your current goals and you’ve returned to school, or maybe hard times have found their way to your doorstep. Whatever the reason, gaps in our employment histories happen.

While there may be a gap on your resume, all hope for overcoming the hurdles involved in the hiring process should not be lost. If you’re ready to jump back into the rat race, a little bit of can-do attitude and calculated clarifications can help to shift the focus away from an employment chasm. In some cases, you can even use these to your advantage. Here are some tips to help you bridge these gaps with recruiters and hiring managers.

Constrain Negativity

If your hiatus was the result of a furlough, reduction in force, or any other euphemism that society chooses to call involuntary employment terminations, keep things positive! All organizations, whether they want to admit to it or not, find themselves in situations where their long-term success is dependent upon reducing or reprioritizing budgets. 

All too often, the quickest way to go from red to black is by reducing headcount. Regardless of how the process was handled or how you may have been wronged, when an inquiry does come up, explain the situation as concisely as possible. Focus on what you accomplished in your former role and use this as your chance to explain the benefits you brought to the organization. Be sure to emphasize how you plan to use your experience and knowledge in the new position.  

Put the Limelight on the Lull

Don’t be afraid to draw attention, or even focus on a particular gap—especially if you’ve filled your time with activities related to the new role or self-improvement. Did you return to school to pick up some additional skills or credits? Have you earned a new certification or endorsement? If you volunteered or picked up an internship, now is the time to explain the connection to these activities and your goals. Occurrences like these can actually be considered positive gaps, however the onus is on you to ensure the person on the other end of the phone or desk understands your unique situation.

Maintain Morality

Not every circumstance surrounding a lapse in employment is rosy; however, you should not be tempted to bend reality. In short, be honest. Life sometimes pitches us curveballs, and you are not alone. While the recruiter or hiring manager may not convey their understanding or even seem confused, trust me—they’ve interviewed and hired people with similar stories. The world of HR may seem vast and disjointed, but most HR professionals are in the "loop" and might understand why you have a gap before you even explain. Creating a web of untruths will only derail your aspirations and, in some cases, may cost you a position you would have otherwise landed.

As you begin down the road of a new career, be fearless when approaching those oft-alarming valleys along the way. Following these tips, you’ll be able to bridge those gullies and shake hands with your new employer in no time. Most importantly, don’t go into an interview ready to "wing it." Have your answer(s) ready. Practice all the possibilities, both the obvious and the curveballs. With a solid answer in hand, you’re sure to reach your desired destination!

About the Author 

Michelle Kruse is the Recruitment Editor and Content Manager at ResumeEdge, where she manages a team of 40 professional resume writers to make sure her clients achieve career success. She has more than 10 years of hiring and recruiting experience for companies such as Novartis and IBM, in addition to a background in coaching and a master’s in leadership development. When she’s not helping job seekers land their dream job, Michelle enjoys spending time with her three little girls, traveling the globe and going to concerts. 

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