How to handle gaps in your resume

Having periods of time spent off the workforce between jobs on your resume can be a red flag for some potential employers, it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker for your career. You just need to know the best way to describe and explain the gaps.

Being off work doesn’t mean that you lack talent or work ethic. At some point in our career, many of us have had reasons to take some time off. It could be for personal or family reasons, going back to school, or it simply because it took a while to secure a new position following a job loss. Lots of people have occasional gaps in their resumes.

When returning to work, the important thing to do is to allay any concerns that potential employers might have that the gap has an impact on your ability to do the job – or your willingness to stick with it. You can do this by being upfront about your time off and being confident in your potential to excel at the job you’re applying for.  

Explain what you were doing during the period you were off work in your resume so that it doesn’t leave potential employers wondering what was going on. If they have concerns, they may never contact you – and you won’t get the opportunity to explain in an interview. Just don’t go into too much detail. The purpose of your resume is to highlight your credentials. It should sell your candidacy; not explain everything you’ve done over the course of your working life.

So, cover the gap, but do it succinctly. Use most of the space to focus on the skills, experience, and qualifications that make you a prime candidate for the job. Here’s an example:

2016-2017 Stay-at-home parent with newborn – now in full-time daycare.


September 2015 – May 2016 Went back to school full time, acquired a certificate in Media Studies from Queen’s College.


January 2017 – Present Took six months off work for family matter – now resolved.

Use much more space to describe the periods of time where you held relevant jobs and made significant accomplishments that can be applicable to the job you’re applying for. These are the things that will make you stand out from other candidates. (And win you the job interview.)

At the job interview you may be asked to provide more detail about the gap in your resume. Once again, there is no need to be overly personal. Just have a prepared answer that explains what you were up to, and what you learned from it. Whatever you’re discussing in an interview, it is important to stay upbeat and positive.

Be sure to point out anything you may have done while you were off to retain and expand your skills. Soft skills, or interpersonal abilities are particularly in-demand across industries, so showcase any that can be useful to the potential employer. These may include, coaching, negotiating, blogging, volunteering, studying, part-time or freelance work, community involvement, care-giving, new technical skills acquired or accomplishments achieved.

Also, if gap between jobs was not following your most recent employment but happened at some point earlier in your career, and it was only a few months long, you may not need to mention it at all. You can cover up periods of unemployment without having to be dishonest. Simply list the years for the start and end dates of your previous jobs. Don’t list the specific months.

Here’s what that looks like.

This first example (with the months included) indicates a six-month gap in employment.

Acme Corp: March 2013 – April 2015

Elmo Inc: October 2015 – Present

However, by dropping the months of the employment period shows the same work experience without a noticeable gap.

Acme Corp: 2013 – 2015

Elmo Inc: 2015 – Present

There’s nothing dishonest about this; it’s simply presenting the information about your past employment is a way that best sell your candidacy. That’s what resumes are for.

Just don’t try to cover gaps in your resume by actually lying about the dates of your previous jobs. A simple reference call or background check can confirm your period of employment. Employers would much rather hire someone who has taken some time off and is upfront about being ready to come back to work than hire someone who is trying to deceive them right from the outset. Fudging the timeline of previous employment is actually one of the top three most common lies on a resume – and one of the easiest to get caught for.  

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