Job Search Tips Professional Development

How to Explain Employment Gaps

Written by Peter Jones

School happens, children happens, illnesses happen. But at the end of these trials and triumphs, the workplace is there waiting for us, ready to judge. Of course it should forgive the dreaded work gap, especially given your very excellent reasons for taking some time off the job, but don’t rely entirely on the one-in-a-million boss that understands the idea of work life balance.

Take the following three steps to ensure your application doesn’t suffer because of employment gaps.

Explain It on Your Resume

You can’t ignore the gap. But you don’t want to get too defensive about it either. Instead, add a brief “Career Summary” section at the top, a simple and concise paragraph that explains your gap professionally. If your time off was for personal reasons, briefly touch on that. If it was for an additional degree or qualification, this should be emphasized as a strength, rather than a weakness to be explained. Sell it, baby!

Go into Detail Your Cover Letter

The whole point of a cover letter is to make a personal connection, and provide valuable context for your application. It’s the best possible way to convince them—on paper, anyway—that you’re right for the job, with or without the work gap.

Find a way to make lemonade; even if you were just exhausted, you can always sell that time as time spent recommitting yourself to your career purpose. Be honest, professional, and show the hiring manager all your silver linings.

Prepare to Discuss It in Your Interview

Don’t just plan to skate through the interview and hope the topic doesn’t come up. You must be prepared to discuss your work gap. Have a few answers prepared—and practiced. And then just focus on being yourself: warm, professional, likeable, and competent.

Make sure you find some way to use the work gap to your advantage. It can make the interviewer see you as a stronger, more insightful person. Or a sharper and more driven future employee.

The bottom line here is to make the absolute best you can out of this gap in your employment history. In most cases, you can turn this liability into an asset with a bit of perseverance, thought, and charm.

About the author

Peter Jones