In today’s competitive job market, you want to make your resume as appealing as possible to prospective employers. Most employers are looking for competent workers to fill key positions quickly, with the expectation that new workers will stay around for many years and become valuable assets to the company. Therefore, a big gap in work history could be viewed by some employers as a sign that you are not looking for a long term commitment to a job.

You need to be honest on your resume about any big gap in work history, but you can be creative in your explanation to present your history in the best light possible. If you have a gap of more than a few months in your work history, you can’t just skip over it on your resume and hope no one will notice. Even though you were not working during that time, you might have been doing something that would look good to an employer.

Having a big gap in work history should not negatively impact your chances of finding a job if you can make the gap look like it was not time wasted. If you had to leave work in order to take care of your ailing parents, or if you took two years off after the birth of your child, you can highlight the valuable experiences you gained during your time off.

If you took a year or two off from a “real” job and spent the time wandering around Europe, describe this period as a personal sabbatical for enhancing your education and understanding of the world.

List the time interval as though it was a period of employment, except that you didn’t get paid for it. If the other job descriptions on your resume take up six lines each, devote the same space to describing your “duties” during your time off.

It is better to be up front and honest with potential employers when describing your background. If you have one or more big gaps in employment that were due to circumstances that an employer might see as negative, it is better to explain those circumstances fully in your cover letter when applying for a job. If you spent time in prison or drug rehab, it is better for you to explain what valuable lessons you learned from the experience in your job application process, than it is to hide the truth and hope your potential employer doesn’t discover it in a background check.

Many employers will not view a gap in employment negatively. They recognize the value of continuing education, caring for others, and personal growth experiences. They will often seek out job candidates who have something unusual to offer. By explaining your big gap in work history in the proper light, you may show the boss that you are the exact type of creative and self-motivated individual the company needs for that job you have always dreamed of.

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2 Responses

11.02.11

This is probably one of the hardest topics to address in resume writing and interviewing. Thank you for providing tips to make these types of scenarios a little easier to handle.

[...] to make a career change, people with multiple positions with different industries, people with gaps in their employment and those just starting out on their career. However, as always, I have to warn [...]

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