How to Handle a Career Gap on a Resume

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As a leading provider of career services, such as resume writing, cover letter help, interview prep, LinkedIn help, and career coaching, ResumeSpice and our team of career consultants are used to fielding a broad array of questions from job seekers. One of the most common questions we hear is some variation of ‘How do I overcome a career gap on my resume?’

Let’s Start with Why

First, it’s important to understand why an unaddressed career gap can be a concern to potential employers. It typically can be distilled down to the reality that in the absence of information, employers will think the worst. Were you fired? Let go for performance or other issues? Did you walk off the job without notice? Simply put, did you lose your job through your own fault and am I going to regret hiring you?

None of those things may be true, but if you don’t take the time to address them, an employer with hundreds or maybe thousands of other potential applicants, will simply move on. It’s a lot easier to look at the next resume than it is to guess and explore possible reasons for your career gap.

The reasons for concern also change as the gap lengthens. At one or two months, the above concerns are most prevalent. After three or four months, the employer’s bigger concern is are your skills still up to date. That’s important to understand as you plan your strategy.

Cover Letter / Resume

We always suggest first addressing gaps within one’s cover letter, if your career gap is current. A cover letter not only grants you more space than your resume, but it also allows a bit more of a conversational (yet still professional) tone. That makes it the ideal place to address what led to your career gap.

You may have experienced a medical issue or moved to another state to follow your spouses’ job. You have may have taken time off to raise your children. Whatever your situation is, hiring managers will want you to account for your time. If your gap is longer than two months, include information about what have doing to stay productive and up to date. Have you done any freelance or consulting work or spent your time volunteering your skills to an organization? Have you taken classes? Received new certifications?

What if “all” you’ve done is help raise your kids? That’s a lot! If you’ve been a “stay-at-home-dad” or “stay-at-home-mom” and that’s how you’ve kept busy, include it. While it isn’t a job that exists within the professional world, the skills required to run a household and care for small humans certainly are: budget maintenance, negotiation, time management, communication.

If your career gap is current, we also recommend including it as a “job” in your resume. If it’s in the past, but in your most recent 1-2 jobs and three or more months long in duration, we typically recommend including it as a job in your resume in that case as well. What we’re trying to do is close the gap and remove any reason for concern. For example, if you are currently employed, but you stayed home for nine months between your current job and your previous job, you may want to list your job in the gap as “Household Manager” and then list the duties for which you were responsible.

It’s less about what you’ve been doing during the gap. It’s more about if you’ve been productive during that time, kept your skills up-to-date, and done something meaningful.

If you need help addressing a career gap on your resume or you need help creating a resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile, contact ResumeSpice today. We have a team of career consultants who can help address your needs and concerns.