How To Explain Employment Gaps On A Resume: 10 Answers + Examples (2020)

A woman in an interview explaining an employment gap on her resume

Have you ever been out of work for a while? Are you worried that having a gap on your resume will work against you? In this article, you’re going to learn about how to fill in employment gaps, and more importantly, how to explain employment gaps on a resume.

an example of a resume that shows some experience and a notable gap in experience

Employment gaps can work against you and normally recruiters are curious about why you were out of work for some time. As you go through the article and video, you will learn the most common reasons why people have gaps on their resumes, how to explain lengthy employment gaps, how to explain what you did during this period, plausible reasons, the most asked questions, and specific answers you can give, all of which will demonstrate why you are still a great candidate for the job.

gap on resume

Let’s dive in.

Video

 

What Is An Employment Gap?

An employment gap is a period of time that a job seeker is unemployed. Most recruiters consider a job gap to be six months or more out of work, however, there is no official rule for this.

 

How To Explain An Employment Gap – Plausible Reasons

How to explain an employment gap

  • Health reasons
  • Family reasons
  • Furthering education
  • Failed business
  • Sabbatical

Health: How to fill in employment gaps on your resume and have a reason for it. One common reason that comes up a lot are health issues. Sometimes, due to bad health or just a drop in one’s health can put you out of work for a while. At the time of writing this article, we’re in full swing of the Coronavirus, so if you came down with it and or your family, it is a good reason. If you have had health issues, make sure you can quickly explain that you are over it now. In most cases, recruiters won’t dig too deep into this topic as they don’t want to appear nosy or discriminatory if you are not selected for the next round of interviews.

explaining an employment gap because of a health related issue

Family reasons: Similar to the one above, sometimes there was someone in your family that was sick, and you decided to take care of them full-time. This is a noble thing to do and justifies having a gap on your resume. Maybe you’ve had a recent addition to the family – a newborn. These are great and more than justified reasons to have a gap on your CV.

employment gaps reasons because of family reasons

Furthering your education: another great reason for an employment gap is taking time to further your education. Many see education as a way to open your mind and new doors of opportunity. If you have gone on to pursue a bachelor’s, master’s, specialization, or another degree to advance your career, these are great gap fillers and recruiters will understand these gaps. Furthering your education also adds a lot of value to a company as you will bring your newly acquired knowledge to the new company. Most of all, the company didn’t have to pay for it. They are getting you with this newly acquired knowledge.

explain employment gap on a resume with education

Failed business: nowadays and more than ever, entrepreneurship is on an all-time high. Individuals of all ages are launching side projects, companies, and businesses and trying to ride the wave of entrepreneurship. Launching and creating a successful business is a lot harder than it may seem on the Shark Tank, and the chances you will fail are HIGH. However, even with this failure, the learning curve that you will have is off the charts and can be very valuable to companies. Learning obtained from launching your own business is similar to a hockey stick – it starts flat and then just shoots up. It’s massive! Nowadays, many recruiters are interested in speaking to former entrepreneurs to see if they are right for the job. Recruiters should not look down on a candidate that has a gap in his career because of trying to launch a business.

explain employment gap with a failed business attempt

Sabbatical: In most cases, I have seen older, more senior-level execs might take some time off from their job. This is known as a sabbatical. It can range from a month up to a year. Normally, the individual is looking to get some time off of work to focus on other things. It could be learning a new language, taking a new course, investing time in a new hobby, or a series of other things. Whatever it may be, sabbaticals are quite common and can be a nice refresher for the individual. It’s a great way to recharge one’s batteries.

sabbatical employment gap

 

How To Fill In Employment Gaps On A Resume If You Are Currently Out Of Work

  • Find contract or temp work
  • Start freelancing or consulting
  • Become a volunteer
  • Get more training

You should never be inactive when you are out of work, never! You should always be moving forward and trying to make a difference in your life and career. If by chance you are currently out of work and are looking for ways to fill your employment gaps, consider some of the options below.

 

Contract or Temp Work: If you are out of work but still want or need to make some money, contract or temp work can be a great option. There are plenty of companies out there that offer these short-term positions. You can either apply online or in-person. Some of the jobs offered as temp work can be temp-to-hire. In other words, if you perform well and are a good fit within the company, you may be brought on board as a full-time employee. It’s a great way to get some additional work experience, get your foot in the door at a new company, and continue to make a living.

Freelancing or Consulting: These are two great options for people that already have a strong skill set in a field. You might be an avid digital marketer and want to work as a freelance while off from work or maybe you are good at voice-overs VO. There are all sorts of sites out there that offer freelancing opportunities like Fivver, Upwork, among others.

Volunteering: I can’t stress this one enough. Volunteering is a great way to get off the couch, gain some valuable experience, and is a good way to support an important cause. Even more importantly, many organizations need volunteers to help them; and this can be in multiple capacities. Lastly, you never know, you might like it so much and there might even be an official paying job for you in the long run. This has happened to many people. This official US Government website has several public service and volunteer opportunities.

Get more training: Another great way to fill in that employment gap is by getting more training. If you are from a field like digital marketing or in a tech area, things are changing at breakneck speed. This requires you to stay on top of the new changes and trends in the game. Getting more training will allow you to do this. Luckily, nowadays it is easier than ever especially with the vast number of online courses out there. Check out Udemy, Linkedin Learning, Hubspot Academy, Coursera, EDX, Udacity, among the many others.

How To Fill In Employment Gaps On A Resume If You Are Currently Out Of Work

 

What Is Considered A Long Employment Gap?

Employment gaps can range in time depending on the current economic scenario, the place you live, your level of experience, and the jobs available in your region. Typically, an employment gap is when you are out of work for more than 6 months. Obviously, there is no golden rule here. Some recruiters and HR specialists might consider a gap to be a year or more out of work. It’s subjective. To play it safe, consider it to be when you’re 6 months out of the game.

What Is Considered A Long Employment Gap

As mentioned above, sometimes there are economic factors at play and can inhibit you from getting placed in the market again. For example, we had a crisis in 2008-2009, and this led to a lot of people being out of work for a long time. Let’s also consider our current market and the coronavirus that is shaking things up. Job-hunters may be out of work for much longer during this period, so sometimes a long employment gap in times like these is more justifiable.

 

Additional Tips

There is no need to dive into detail about why you have an employment gap. Just make sure you give a good quick and concise reason/explanation along with what you have been doing during this period. Hopefully, you have been continuing your education online with free courses, volunteering, or doing some of the other ideas mentioned above to demonstrate that you have been active. Don’t be afraid to show off some of the new skills you have gained. Maybe you took a coding course and just coded and launched your own blog or took a digital marketing course on Hubspot and started testing your new skills on different social media. Convey this to the recruiter. This should earn you some credit.

Don’t worry about old gaps: If it’s 2020, and you had a gap back in 2015, this is not that important. More than likely, you are already employed and looking for a job, or recently left a job and are searching. So, an older gap is not much to worry about. The only gap to worry about are current ones where you have been out of the market for a year or 2 and you are looking for a job now.

Additional tips on how to explain gaps on your resume

 

Employment Gap Questions and Answers

Let’s dive into specific scenarios with specific questions and answers.

Context: it is March 22, 2020, and a candidate has been out of work since April 1, 2019. The candidate used to work at company ABCD.

Recruiter: The recruiter may directly or indirectly inquire about the gap saying, “Why did you leave your job at ABCD?” this is a good way to start digging and getting more information.

Employment gap questions – Other possible ways to ask about the employment gap are:

  1. I noticed you have been out of work for a while,  why have you been out of work so long?
  2. I see you have a gap in employment here. What can you tell me about that?
  3. I noticed a gap on your resume. What are you doing to keep your skills current?
  4. It seems like you have been out of work for roughly 8 months. “What happened and what have you been doing to keep up your skills?”
  5. Can you walk me through your resume?
  6. Could you tell me about why you left your last job? What have you been doing during this period?

Employment Gap Possible Answers:

  1. I was hired to work on a temporary project, a total of 1 year in length. After the team and I successfully finished and handed over the project, our job was done, and we were let go. So, this was to be expected.
  2. I took a year off to have a baby.
  3. I decided to leave ABCD so I could take care of (parent, child, etc.) full time.
  4. I was laid off during the Coronavirus period due to extreme budget cuts to keep the company afloat. I am currently applying to jobs and taking additional courses on Linkedin Learning to level up.
  5. Because of the pandemic, our company furloughed 40% of the workforce. Eventually, with internal restructuring to keep the business alive, these same employees that were temporarily laid off were made redundant.
  6. I had the opportunity to take a yearlong sabbatical and take some time off to focus on myself. The main goal of my sabbatical was to travel, learn a new language, and expand my horizon. Now I am back and super excited to get back into the market and explore new, exciting opportunities like this one. 
  7. I believe that both the company and I had very different expectations. In retrospect, I believe there are many things that I could have done differently. I can say I learned a lot during this time, and I believe I was able to mature from it. I will definitely apply the lessons learned from this previous position to my new role and make sure it is a success. 
  8. If for some reason the interviewer really tries to pry or dive deep into an answer, and you do not feel comfortable, you may say, “I would prefer not to go into more detail.” If there is a continued push from the interviewer, you may choose to end the interview altogether by saying, “I am not comfortable with where our interview is headed, so this role is probably not a good fit. Thank you for your time.” 

Employment Gap Question and Answer

You can easily modify some of the previous reasons mentioned earlier in the text and turn them into answers.

More Employment Gap Answers

 

Now suppose that you have a much bigger gap, say 2 years plus. Let’s say that instead of the recruiter probing, he or she comes out and directly asks about it.

Recruiter: “Can you walk me through your resume?” then “Could you tell me about why you left your last job?” “What have you been doing during this period?”

Employment Gap Questions

Answers

  1. Great question. I decided to go back to school to further my education and gain new skills to make myself more attractive in the market. I know that furthering my education will create newer and better possibilities to grow.
  2. That’s a great question. I was always keen on launching my own business. I had been studying and flirting with a few ideas for quite some time when I decided to make the move. I ended up launching a (business, service, product, etc.) in (area). Although ultimately things didn’t work out, the lessons learned that I have gained from this have been two-fold. If you’re interested, I can tell you a little bit more about the experience and how it relates to the current position.

Long Employment Gap - 2 Possible Answers

employment gap questions used by recruiters

employment gap answers that you can use in an interview

Slides

 

How To Explain Employment Gaps On A Resume – Wrap Up

These are just a few different ways the question can be posed and ways that you can successfully maneuver and work it in your favor. Remember, questions about employment gaps are quite common and will arise if you have a lengthy gap on your resume.

I hope that from this article you have been able to gain a better notion and method on how to fill in employment gaps on your resume, how to explain employment gaps, and feel confident to answer these questions if or when they come up.

For more interview and job search tips, check out the CareerPrep blog and also the CareerPrep Youtube channel

 

Now I’d Like to Hear From You

Did you learn any new strategies for explaining employment gaps from today’s video and post?

Or maybe you use a different technique or strategy that I didn’t mention here.

Either way, let me know by leaving a quick comment below.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel and as always, Learn, Practice, Succeed. Until next time.

 

Useful resources:

How to write a resume for high school students

Resume for college students

Downloadable Resume Template

Skype Interviews

Remote working

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