Employment Gap on Your Resume: What You Need to Know And Why

Employment Gap on Your Resume: What You Need to Know And Why


What is an employment gap?


Kamara Toffolo, LinkedIn Top Voice, executive resume writer and job search strategist, specifies that a gap in employment is when you're not working at all, and she generally considers anything over three months to be an employment gap. Taking care of a family, returning to school, being jobless due to a recession or layoff, or seeking a new career that is a better match are typical causes for work gaps.

Employment gaps might make finding new jobs difficult because some companies may have negative expectations about them. However, analysts believe that the significance of resume gaps is diminishing, particularly during the epidemic era, as more businesses are prepared to recruit individuals who have been out of work for extended periods. However, these disparities might cause anxiety for job seekers concerned about how potential employers would see them.

According to Reitman & Schneer (2005), an employment gap is any period of voluntary or involuntary unemployment lasting longer than one month, not including temporary layoffs or leaves of absence. Thus, a gap only occurs after complete severance from a company. It is a period (months or years) when the job seeker is unemployed. People stay unemployed mostly because they want to raise children, travel, or attend school full-time.

According to Susan M. Heathfield, an employment gap is a period of months or years during which a job applicant is not employed. Employees opt to be jobless for various reasons, including full-time school attendance and having and raising children. Employment gaps can sometimes occur for involuntary causes such as layoffs and downsizing, jail time, or termination for cause. When an unemployed person attempts to return to work, a job gap or gap in employment history raises red flags in the eyes of a potential employer.

Why are some employers concerned with employment gaps?

Although certain companies may be unconcerned by job gaps, others might perceive them as a red flag. This is because employers often look for candidates with a consistent work history, which may indicate reliability, stability, and a strong work ethic. Employment gaps might raise concerns about a candidate's dedication to their profession, capacity to adjust to new settings or general competency.

However, it is important to highlight that not all employment gaps are seen negatively, and many employers understand that life events and personal issues can occasionally generate gaps in a person's work history. The key is to address these gaps effectively and provide context to help employers understand the reasons behind them. [Related]

Related: 15 Resume Advice You've Never Heard Before

Common reasons for employment gaps and how to address them

The first thing to know about employment gaps is that they are common. What isn't clear is how one should address the gaps and how a potential employer perceives them.

1.  Family Reasons

Parental leave or caring for an ill family member is among the most prevalent causes of job gaps. Maternity leave is a typical cause for a break from work. According to an International Labour Organization (ILO) survey from 2019, around 56% of nations globally gave at least 14 weeks of maternity leave. Paternity leave, albeit less widespread, is another factor that might contribute to male employment inequalities. According to research by the Center for Talent Innovation, persons who took a career break for family reasons frequently find difficulties upon re-entering the workforce. Approximately 73% of women who took an employment break in the United States reported having trouble finding work when they returned. When addressing a family-related employment gap, be honest and upfront about the reason, but also emphasize that the situation has been resolved and that you are fully committed to your career.

2. Personal Development and Education

Another common reason for employment gaps is personal development or pursuing further education. If this is the case, highlight the skills and knowledge you gained during this time and how they are relevant to the position you are applying for. According to a 2018 poll performed by the Boston Consulting Group, 70% of employees stated that taking a career break improved their job performance and raised their long-term employability.

3. Health-related Reasons

Health issues like illnesses or injuries can also lead to employment gaps. When addressing a health-related employment gap, be honest about the situation but focus on your recovery and ability to perform the job.

4. Career Change or Job Loss

A career change, job loss, or layoff can also result in an employment gap. In these cases, explain the circumstances surrounding the gap and emphasize the steps you took to find new employment or the skills you developed during this time.

Strategies for addressing employment gaps on your resume

Employment Gap in your resume

1. Be Honest and Transparent

The most crucial aspect of addressing employment gaps on your resume is honesty and transparency. Trying to hide or downplay a gap in employment may raise suspicions and damage your credibility. According to a survey done by Careerminds, 47% of respondents say their bad hire was caused by a candidate who lied in an interview. Hence being honest and transparent helps save the business and get the desired job. CareerBuilder found that 51% of employers say that they would automatically dismiss a candidate if they caught a lie on their resume.

2. Use the Right Resume Format

Consider using a functional or combination resume format to shift the focus away from your employment history and toward your skills and accomplishments.

3. Fill Current Gaps with Relevant Experience

If you have a current employment gap, consider filling it with relevant experiences, such as volunteering, freelancing, or taking on personal projects demonstrating your skills and abilities.

4. Highlight Your Skills and Continuous Learning

Emphasize the skills you developed and the knowledge you gained during your employment gap, showing that you have continued to grow and learn even when not employed. According to a survey done by Linkedin, 51% of hirers say they are more likely to contact a candidate that provides context about their career break.

5. Provide a Valid Explanation

Give a clear and concise explanation for your employment gap, focusing on the circumstances and the reasons behind it.

6. Highlight New Skills and Accomplishments

Emphasize any new skills or accomplishments you achieved during your employment gap, demonstrating your commitment to personal and professional growth.

Related: 5 Resume Writing Mistakes That Could Cost You a Job and What to do Instead

Discussing Employment Gaps during Job Interviews

Prepare yourself to address employment gaps during job interviews by following these tips:

1. Practice Your Response

Anticipate questions about your employment gap and rehearse your response in advance, ensuring you can confidently and effectively explain the situation.

2. Focus on the Positive

Emphasize the positive aspects of your employment gap, such as the skills you gained or the personal growth you experienced during this time.

3. Don't Badmouth Previous Employers

Avoid speaking negatively about previous employers or blaming them for your employment gap, as this may reflect poorly on your professionalism and attitude.

Employment Gap on Your Resume: Good Reasons for Employment Gaps

As mentioned earlier, not all employment gaps are viewed negatively by employers. According to Jamie Birt, here are some examples of acceptable reasons for employment gaps:

  1. Family responsibilities
  2. Personal development or education
  3. Health issues or injuries
  4. Career changes or job loss
  5. Volunteer work or personal projects

Related: Resume Writing - Everything you Need to Know While Applying for a Job

Employment Gap on Your Resume: Avoiding Future Employment Gaps

According to an article by The Harvard Business Review, here are some ways to minimize the chances of future employment gaps:

1. Start a Personal Project

Engaging in personal projects like starting a blog or launching a small business can help you develop new skills and demonstrate your initiative to potential employers.

2. Expand Your Network

Networking can help you stay informed about job opportunities and connect with potential employers, reducing the likelihood of future employment gaps. According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Yale University report, 70% percent of all jobs are found through networking.

3. Pursue Professional Development

Updating your skills and knowledge through professional development opportunities can make you more attractive to employers and help you stay competitive in the job market.

4. Making the Most of Your Employment Gap

While employment gaps on your resume may initially seem like a disadvantage, they can also offer valuable personal and professional growth opportunities. You can turn a potential weakness into a strength by addressing these gaps effectively and focusing on the skills and experiences gained during this time.

Related: Resume Mistakes Everyone Should Avoid

Employment Gap on Your Resume: Frequently Asked Questions about Employment Gaps

1. How long is too long for an employment gap?

The answer to this question depends on various factors, such as the reason for the gap and the industry in which one is seeking employment. In general, shorter employment gaps are more acceptable than longer ones, but the key is providing context and explanation.

2. Is an employment gap always a disadvantage?

No, an employment gap is not always a disadvantage. An employment gap can strengthen your resume if you can effectively explain the reason for the gap and demonstrate the skills and experiences gained during this time.

3. How should I address an employment gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Be honest and transparent about the impact of the pandemic on your employment situation. Emphasize your steps to maintain or develop your skills, such as completing online courses or engaging in personal projects.

Employment Gap on Your Resume: Conclusion

Employment gaps on your resume need not be a cause for concern if you know how to address them effectively. Remember to be honest and transparent, use the right resume format, and focus on the skills and experiences gained during your gap. By following these guidelines and implementing the strategies discussed in this article, you can confidently tackle employment gaps on your resume and present yourself to potential employers in the best possible light.

Tanyaradzwa Shava
This article was written by Tanyaradzwa a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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