While having an employment gap on your resume is often said to be a detriment during the job search, it is how you handle the gap that makes a difference. The best way to explain the gap during an interview depends on what you did while unemployed. Follow this advice to deal with a gap on your resume and during an interview.
Masking a Gap with Formatting
If you held a position for more than a year, you can mask a gap on your resume with some basic formatting. Instead of listing both the month and year of your employment, only list the year. For example, instead of writing “Sales Manager, May 2008-June 2012,” just list the years. This is an effective way of covering an employment gap without breaking any key resume rules.
Another formatting trick to minimize your gap is to begin your resume with a Career Highlight section or Summary Statement. Use the opening space to highlight your accomplishments and skills instead of focusing on when you did what.
Listing Other Experience
How did you spend your time while unemployed? Did you do consulting or freelance work? Did you volunteer? These experiences should be included on your resume. Write them out just as you would any other position, including the title, organization or company name, description and dates of work.
If you have been in the workforce for a significant period of time, your resume does not have to include all your experiences. If you are seeking a professional or managerial position, limit your history to the past 15 years. For a high-tech job, it is fine to just list what you did in the last decade. There is no need to mention gaps before that period.
Utilize Your Cover Letter
If you cannot explain employment gaps by listing other experiences on your resume, explain them in your cover letter. This is particularly useful if you took time off to raise a family or care for an aging or sick loved one. Don’t go into too many details; just mention it to explain your absence from the workforce to a potential employer.
Focus on the Positive
Emphasize the constructive ways you spent your gap period and exude enthusiasm for getting back into the workforce. Focus on making a strong case for why you are excited about your target position.
Tell the Truth
Never lie on your resume to cover up an employment gap. Employers will find out if you filled your resume with incorrect information, and lying is an easy way to stay unemployed. Chances are, the person interviewing you also had a gap in their employment history. Most people do. Don’t sweat it, stick to the truth and emphasize the positive to land the job.