How to Overcome Resume Gaps in Your Work History

How to Overcome Resume Gaps in Your Work History

In years past, it was considered a disadvantage to have gaps in your employment. Times have changed.

About 76% of people in the US between the ages of 24 and 38 expect to take a hiatus from work for longer than one month, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. The reasons for extended breaks vary, from a tight job market to greater acceptance of nontraditional career paths, longer career spans, health issues and the need to take care of family members. This seems to be leading a culture shift, causing employers to be more accepting of employment gaps when hiring for opportunities.

Applicants with extended work gaps will still have a 45% lower chance of being invited to interviews, according to ResumeGo findings based on some 36,000 applications. That number jumps to 60% once the applicants’ gap was explained. Applicants with gaps shorter than two years had significantly better outcomes than those with longer gaps.

Regardless of the changing tide, applicants should be cognizant that a resume gap needs to be addressed. Here are 5 recommendations for preparing to return to the workforce after an extended leave.

Stay current

Do your best to stay current in terms of relevant experience whether you plan to stay in the same field or are planning a career pivot. If you’re switching fields, consider volunteering or mentorship programs in the new industry. Study up on the latest trends and gain fluency in the current industry news and challenges. Be able to show that you kept up regardless of your professional absence. Keep professional skills up-to-date.

About the resume

Consider changing your resume to a functional resume format. This contemporary style focuses on skills rather than the chronology of previous roles. It gives space to highlight marketable qualities by showing relevance, experience, and commitment rather than focusing on the trajectory. Because of the formatting, a functional resume may minimize the appearance of an extended gap in employment.

Network early and often

Networking is invaluable. Getting and staying connected to colleagues during a leave means you’ll have insights into what’s happening in the field. When seeking your next role, these direct contacts will facilitate the process. Utilizing your connections is a great way to get the right introductions. Other network opportunities are memberships for professional associations, attending industry events, and leveraging your LinkedIn contacts. Reaching out to prior mentors and colleagues is the best way to stay connected.

How to explain your gap

You will have to explain the reason for a gap. The most important thing is to be honest and keep your responses positive. If you own the gap as a choice, rather than something unexpected or unintentional, hiring managers are more likely to understand and respect your decision. Here are three examples to consider.

  1. If you were laid off, don’t blast the company. Instead, explain how that role was an asset, and describe what you gained and accomplished in that time.
  2. If you needed the time off for personal reasons, to travel or to care for family, briefly share your decision and focus on your goal to get back to what you want to be doing professionally.
  3. If you took the time out to retrain or switch fields, describe how your previous career or studies inspired and motivated you to grow.

Attitude matters

Have a positive outlook! This goes a long way. Always keep your focus on what you plan to accomplish in the future. Keep your energy and interest high. And remember, it is acceptable to put your profession on pause for a variety of valid reasons. No need to justify or apologize. People understand that life happens and that we each need to do what’s best. Having confidence in your decision to take a break from your work will help you land your next gig.

Knowing how to handle your resume gap by illustrating the advantages, will give you a better outcome as you re-enter the workplace.


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