How to Make Your Employment History Gaps Work for You

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Gaps in your employment history may seem like a major hurdle when applying for a new position, but they don’t have to be. Employers often understand that people have to take time off every once in a while for personal reasons, whether it be to raise children, travel, or deal with a health issue. As long as you’re honest about the reasons for your resume gaps and are able to show that some personal or professional growth resulted from them, potential employers will still be willing to consider you for the job. Here’s how to handle explaining employment history gaps at two stages in the hiring process:

In Your Resume

It’s important to address the fact that you have a gap in your employment history when you’re putting together your resume. Gaps are really hard to miss when you’ve laid out your employment timelines on paper in black and white. Potential employers will likely have questions about why those gaps exist, so it’s better to be upfront about the gaps being part of your employment background and that there is a reason for them.

In your resume, you can mention in a brief statement (one sentence should suffice) why you have a gap in your employment history, if it’s because you took maternity or paternity leave, you needed a personal leave for a health or family issue, you decided to switch gears and look for opportunities in a different field, you ended up going back to school, or you took time off to travel or pursue another personal interest.

Gaps that are due to downsizing or being fired for another reason will likely require deeper explanation during a face-to-face interview, so leaving an explanation until that point is often a good idea. If you have gaps related to periods of contract employment, be sure to indicate that certain positions were term ones in your resume. This helps explain such gaps and the reason for multiple employers or roles within shorter time spans.

Another important thing to do when working on your resume when you have employment history gaps is to think about what you did during those periods of unemployment and what skills were gained from those activities. For example:

  • Did you volunteer or participate in community activities that helped you gain additional skills?
  • When you traveled, what did you learn about other cultures and/or languages?
  • If you took personal time for a health or family issue, what did you learn from that experience?
  • What did you learn about yourself during your time away from work that helped you understand how you work best?
  • Did you stay abreast of industry changes and trends?
  • Did you continue to participate in the finance and accounting industry in some way (for example, through social media sites like LinkedIn)?
  • Did you accomplish a goal while you were unemployed?
  • In what ways did your period of unemployment make you stronger?

If you participated in volunteer or community work, consider creating a section for this in your resume and describe what you did and how it helped others. If you were unemployed because you went back to school, ensure that you include any certifications/designations/courses completed in your resume.

Read: “How to Avoid Leaving a Recruiter with Questions about Your Resume” for more ways to beef up your resume.

In An Interview

Even if you’ve addressed employment history gaps in your resume, you should expect that you will be asked about this if you’re selected for an interview. Some of the questions a potential employer may have when they see gaps in a resume include: “Why hasn’t this person already been hired by someone else?”, “Why did they choose to take time off?”, “Does this person have problems with committing to a career?”, “Does this person have problems getting along with others?”, and “Is this person’s experience out of date?”

Understanding how to present the reasons for your gaps in employment can empower you to get through an interview with confidence and poise.

It’s crucial that you be prepared to answer the questions that will likely come up in regards to your resume gaps. Make a list of the things you learned or developed over the course of your time away from work. How can these experiences and/or skills be applied to the position for which you’re interviewing? Ensure your answers are brief and clear.

Note, however, that employers are prohibited from asking personal questions that are not related to qualifications and job requirements needed for the hiring decision, based on standards set out in the Ontario Employment Standards Act. This means that you can offer information as it directly relates to your work history, but no personal information beyond that is required to be shared by you or asked about by the interviewer.

If your resume gap was the result of downsizing at your previous employer, explain the circumstances that led to the downsizing, including details such as how many other people were laid off at around the same time that you were. Be clear about what you were able to accomplish during your time there, using the S.A.M. method – what you saved, achieved, and/or made. You can also talk about what the experience taught you and how you’ve grown from it.

However you choose to explain your resume gaps and present what benefits came out of your time away from work, make sure you do it by being straightforward, positive, and confident.

Read: “How To Talk About The Gap In Your Work History” for more insight on discussing time taken off from work.

Key Takeaways

  • Having gaps in your employment history doesn’t mean you won’t get the job.
  • Be honest about why you weren’t working for a period of time.
  • In your resume, briefly note why there are gaps.
  • It’s best to have a face-to-face talk about gaps due to downsizing or being fired.
  • Ensure you indicate in your resume any contract positions you’ve held.
  • Include in your resume any skills you gained while taking time off.
  • Consider adding a volunteering/community activities section to your resume.
  • Be prepared to answer interview questions about employment gaps you have.
  • Present yourself confidently and discuss resume gaps in a positive light.
  • Be clear with the interviewer about why you have employment history gaps.
  • Share how you grew professionally or personally during your time off.

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

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