How to Explain an Employment Gap

by Lindbloom, Katie - Jul, 2008

Katie Lindbloom is the Recruiting Marketing Manager at QPS Companies, Inc. QPS Companies is a staffing and recruiting company with 20 offices throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. QPS has been placing great people at great companies since 1985. Visit QPS at http://www.qpscompanies.com to find a branch near you.
Full Bio

Katie Lindbloom
Arguably the most important aspect of a resume is the work history. Unfortunately, if you’ve spent any time not working, either taking care of a sick family member, staying at home with your kids, or going on a sabbatical, you could have a huge, eye grabbing hole in your resume.

Employers do not like to see any gaps in your work history, so you must explain any time that you were not employed. You can do this by addressing the issue in your cover letter, but more importantly you have to explain your period of unemployment in your resume. The best way to tackle this is by focusing on how your skills gained during your time off are applicable to the position you are applying for. Here is an example below for a stay-at-home parent applying for an Administrative position:

Home & Family Management (2005-2008)
Managed, budgeted and paid all incoming bills while creating an online alphabetical filing system in Microsoft Excel. Excellent time management; keep accurate and up-to-date calendar in Microsoft Word.

Notice the above sample only focuses on what is necessary for the position. Keeping personal information to a minimum is best so that the employer visualizes you as a professional and can evaluate your skills equally to the other applicants.

Other great ways to explain a gap in work history include:

Volunteer Work – make sure if you do any non-profit volunteering, you include it in your resume. Examples include participating in the PTA, running a church picnic, or coaching a sports team.

Education – many people don’t think to put education under work history; but to list it with dates helps an employer make the connection between the gap and the education.

The one thing you shouldn’t do on your resume is lie. For instance, don’t extend the dates at your previous employer to shorten the gap…this will only come back to haunt you.