Handling an Employment Gap on Your Resume

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resume gaps

Don’t Fret Over Your Employment Gaps. It’s All About Strategy.

In a competitive job market, it’s important to tweak your resume in ways that put your best foot forward, even if you’ve been through a rough patch recently with regard to your employment. Employers almost always notice when the dates in your resume don’t add up, leaving a gap in employment. Therefore, you should use one of several strategies to address that gap in a way that gives you the best possible chance of getting called in for an interview and landing the job, regardless of the time you spent unemployed.

Draw Attention to Education

Many people who are unemployed and can’t find the type of work they’d like use the time to return to school and get another degree, or at least start work toward one. If you’ve attended school while you were unemployed, consider drawing attention to it by organizing your resume chronologically rather than having separate sections for employment and education. Employers may not automatically fill in the gap in employment with the schooling listed at the bottom of your resume, but if you put it in order for them, they will see that you were productive the whole time.

List Volunteer Work on Resume

There’s a growing trend to include volunteer work on a resume to show pro-active tendencies during your employment gap. Particularly if you took on major responsibilities as you volunteered, like serving on your neighborhood association board or heading up a food drive for the local food bank, you actually gained valuable experience from your volunteering. List volunteer responsibilities at the bottom of your resume, or if you held a titled position with significant responsibilities as a volunteer, consider putting it in with your employment history section.

Tweak Dates to Downplay Gap

If your employment gap was prior to your last job, you can adjust the way you display your dates to make the gap less obvious. For example, say you worked a job from July of 2004 through November of 2008, then were unemployed for a year until you got another job in November of 2009 and worked that one until now. Rather than listing both the month and year on your resume, just list the year. Being employed from 2004-2008 and from 2009-present doesn’t draw as much attention to the full year you spent unemployed.

Ignore the Gap

There are times when you shouldn’t do anything to hide or explain an employment gap. If you were legitimately unemployed or out of the work force for a time, you may just have to leave the gap on your resume, do all you can to highlight the relevant experience you have, and hope you get an interview. Employers will often ask about a gap at an interview, though, so make sure you’re ready to describe what productive activities you did during that time.

Having a gap in your employment history doesn’t look great, but you can improve your chance of getting a job if you handle it well. Play to your strengths and do everything you can to show a potential employer that you are hardworking and will be an asset to the company.