Life isn’t predictable, and neither is the flow of a career. While it would be ideal if every job seeker had a solid history of employment from graduation to the present day, the fact is that many candidates have employment gaps that cover months or even years.
The reasons for resume gaps are as varied as the candidates themselves. Some people take time off to raise children or take care of aging or infirm family members. Others try their hand at freelance or consulting work after a layoff. Some take time off to return to school, to try an unrelated skill or hobby, offer military service or to pursue personal enrichment projects like travel or writing. Still others battle illness, need extensive injury rehabilitation, or face incarceration.
The common theme in all resume gaps is that they can inhibit your ability to land a job. Luckily, there are many ways to present employment gaps that help you display your strengths while minimizing a hiring manager’s concerns.
If you’re wondering how to fill a gap in your resume, consider these tips:
- Try a functional format. The traditional reverse-chronological format is popular for resumes, but if you have gaps in your employment history or have made a leap from one career field to another, it’s not the best method for displaying your strengths. Instead, start by summarizing your qualifications and your strengths, then group your skills, abilities, and experience by topic, such as “Information Technology” or “Management.”
- Be honest. Attempting to conceal a gap may make a hiring manager or interviewer suspect you have something to hide. Instead, be prepared to address concerns in a forthright, honest manner, especially if they deal with “negative” situations like incarceration or disability. You don’t have to list this information on your resume – and you shouldn’t – but nor should you pretend you spent that time developing your professional skills unless that is actually the case.
- Accentuate the positive. Did your time away from your career path allow you to raise your family, to develop management skills by volunteering, or to complete that novel you’ve always wanted to write? Mention these accomplishments. On your resume and in an interview, talk about the skills you developed, the goals you achieved, and the lessons you learned during your time away from traditional employment.