What is the best way to explain gaps in employment on your resume?

What is the best way to explain gaps in employment on your resume?  It depends on your situation and what you did while you were not employed. Not all resume gaps are indications of a poor job search. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for breaks between jobs. For instance, during periods when there is an industry-wide or economic recession and the availability of jobs on the market is scarce, employers will understand that you were out of work due to circumstances beyond your control.

What if I had been working abroad?

If you were working abroad and decided to move back to the United States, simply explain to prospective employers that you were living and working in a foreign country and decided to move back to the U.S. Most employers will understand that looking for a new job may take some time and a gap in your employment history for this reason will generally make sense.

What if I am looking to make a career transition?

If you were laid off or left a job and are looking to make a career transition, explain this to prospective employers. Did you return to school or take any other steps to assist you in making a transition professionally? Let employers know. Many people take steps to transition into different careers during their lives. Making a career transition is common, and prospective employers will generally understand if there is a gap in your employment because of your efforts towards making a career change.

Helpful tips for explaining gaps on your resume:

  • Be honest. Many people have gaps in employment on their resume.
  • If you used your time between jobs to improve your skills or make yourself a more marketable employee, explain this to prospective employers.
  • If you were offered jobs but decided to hold out for better prospects, explain this. It will show that you were actively looking for employment during the time you were unemployed.
  • Format your resume in a way that emphasizes your work history, skills, and achievements as opposed to a chronological resume.
  • If you were in school or volunteering during gaps in your employment, include this information on your resume to fill in the gaps.

It is important to know how to explain gaps in your employment history to prospective employers so that they do not view your time away from work as anything negative. If you took an entry-level job to pay bills, for instance, be sure to explain that. It may show a prospective employer that you are a hard worker. Whether you did not work because you were laid off, making a career change, taking time off to raise children, or travelling, be sure to find a way to explain your time away from the work force in a way that turns your experiences during the gap into a plus.

Kathy Kara writes for the Institute for Coaching, an executive and life coaching company.