Gaps in your Employment History & What it Says to Potential Employers
Jacob Alexander is an Executive Recruiter and the Owner of Topcruit Staffing Firm. He has over a decade of experience in employee retention, recruiting and business development. Based in Denver, Colorado he thrives on helping job seekers learn what they need to develop and grow.
If you have gaps in your employment history
Perhaps you were a stay-at-home parent or caring for a sick relative. Maybe you decided to go back to school, freelance or start your own business. Whatever the reason, you should address it in your application to avoid any potential negative assumptions from employers.
What it says to potential employers
Some employers may interpret unaccounted-for periods in your work history as unproductive, lacking motivation or inability to keep a job. However, correctly accounting for and addressing your employment gap can show employers that you used such time to do what was right for you and your family.
What to do if you have gaps in your employment history
Remember that just like having minimal experience, there can be value in a background without a conventional chronology of employment. Knowing how to identify and explain these experiences as positive, valuable assets can make all the difference in getting the job.
1. Reflect on why you were unemployed The first step in bridging the gap(s) in your employment background is determining why you were unemployed in the first place. Know that having employment gaps is more common than you think. A few common reasons for gaps in employment may include:
Having or caring for a child
Illness or recovery
Caring for a loved one
Death of a loved one
Going back to school
Upskilling through internships or certifications
Freelancing or starting a new business
Looking for the right job
2. Determine the skills or qualities you acquired Based on your reason for not being employed, you can brainstorm skills, qualities and perspective gained during that time. For example, if you had a baby, you undoubtedly learned how to multitask, work long hours, and troubleshoot. While not every life event needs explanation—such as a loved one’s death—the ones that do can be highlighted by naming the skills you won as a part of the experience that make you an attractive candidate.
3. Include it in your cover letter Include your employment gap story in your cover letter in a brief paragraph to complete the summary of your qualifications and motivations for the job. Again, do not overstate—one to two sentences will suffice. The priority of your cover letter is to communicate your experience, education, and skills as they relate to the position.
4. Use a functional resume format A functional resume format focuses first on skills and summarized experience and less on the chronology of employment. This is the ideal format for a resume that has gaps in employment. You do not need to explain in your resume why you were unemployed unless it is of a professional nature—such as an internship, education, or an internship—that will add value to your background. Another option is to include your employment gap in your professional experience section, for example:
Full-time parent Atlanta, GA, 2015 - 2017 Took time away from professional career to raise young children and manage the household