How to Explain Employment Gaps


Job InterviewJobs aren’t easy to come by in a down economy. With layoffs continuing and companies hesitant to begin hiring workers, those who have been caught in corporate down-sizings often experience a wait of six months or longer before finally landing a new job. Particularly if the job seeker has additional gaps in his or her work history, knowing how to explain why these gaps occurred and what the worker was doing during that time becomes very important.

What to Do During Employment Gaps

During any gap in employment, the number one priority is to make finding a new job a full-time job in and of itself. However, the job seeker should also consider engaging in career-related tasks such as enrolling in job skills training courses, volunteer work, or freelancing. This will help answer the inevitable question asked by the employer during a job interview, “So what have you been doing during this time?”

How to Explain Job Gaps on a Resume

Employment gaps on a resume can be addressed in one of two ways:

  • The job seeker can write a functional resume rather than the more common reverse chronological resume. The functional resume places job skills over and above consecutive work history.
  • If the job seeker chooses to remain with a traditional reverse chronological resume, it is advisable to add a current work history section to fill in the gap with career-related skills and accomplishments including volunteer work, job skills training, or freelancing work during this interim period.

How to Explain Employment Gaps in a Cover Letter

The cover letter personalizes the job application package and highlights skills and accomplishments from previous positions. The job seeker does not have to address gaps in employment within the cover letter as skills accomplishments can be presented generically without reference to any given time frame. However the job applicant may, at his or her discretion, add current job training and career-related accomplishments inside the job gap.

How to Explain Job Gaps During an Interview

Whether the person has presented to the employer a functional or reverse chronological resume, the question of what the candidate has been doing during the employment gap is inevitably asked. Telling the truth is paramount here – the worst thing that can happen is to be caught in a fib. The candidate should

  • evoke sympathy by telling the employer he or she really liked the previous job, but unfortunately mass layoffs occurred and entire departments were cut
  • tell the employer of job skills training, volunteer work, and freelancing work performed inside the employment gap
  • ensure the employer that he or she has taken every possible measure to seek gainful employment

Bottom Line on How to Explain Employment Gaps

Bottom line, many workers today have one or more gaps ranging from 3 to 6 months or longer. Though employers may recognize the severity of the economic downturn and the difficulty in finding jobs, they still want to know why the candidate has a gap in his or her job history and what the person was doing inside the gap. Learning how to explain employment gaps eases the mind of the employer and increases the chances for landing a new job.