How to Talk About Gaps in Your Resume

August 30, 2018

Even though taking time off from work can be an extremely positive thing for many reasons, explaining an employment gap on your resume when you’re interviewing for a new job can be tricky. Perhaps you took time off for parental leave. Maybe you wanted to take time to reflect on your career and make a change, or had other personal matters to take care of.

So what is the best way to explain the time between your last job and where you are now in a way that positively frames it, and makes you look good as well? We have some tips to help you out.

Own it.
Hilary Andreini, Career Coach and Recruiting Professional at Elysian, says the best thing you can do when talking about gaps in employment is to own it. Being honest about it and coming to the interview knowing exactly how to tell the story in a way that makes sense is the best thing you could possibly do. She also recommends pulling out and showing off any skills that you developed that could help with the job you’re interviewing for, whether you were taking care of a house, kids, ill loved ones, or working on another aspect of your personal life.

All of these things take a lot of organization, discipline, patience, and compassion. These soft skills, while they won’t always be listed in a job description, are still deeply important for any job. Taking some time to think about what you learned and which skills you’ve developed during your time off from work is an amazing way to help sell yourself when you finally do make it to that next step.

Be prepared.
There’s nothing worse than coming into a job interview totally unprepared, but there’s another level to it if you haven’t prepared talking about everything on your resume, including any gaps. Employers can understand that life happens, and will take note of important things you needed to take time off work to do like taking care of children or a sick loved one, or even needing to take a break so as not to burn out. Life happens. That’s why having your story straight and being able to own it, like Hilary says, is so important. The person you’re speaking with will understand, as long as you’re not stumbling around for an explanation you haven’t thought about at all.

Be honest.
Perhaps you were let go from your last job, or quit or resigned for some reason. Being honest and open, while taking care not to point fingers or badmouth anyone, is always the way to go. Explain why it happened and what you have learned from the experience since, as well as how you plan to use those lessons moving forward.

For example, you can say this: “I was let go from my last position due to (fill in the blank). I took the opportunity to sort out what I really wanted from my career and my next company and job, and am now clear about what I want and am grateful to be here interviewing.”
You could also point out how you have learned to take organization and networking to a new level during your job search.  

Always try to turn anything negative into a positive.
Whatever issues you encountered that caused you to leave your last job don’t have to come off as negative, even if they feel that way. Jessica Ozrek, founder of Elysian says that the best thing to do is turn anything negative into a positive. “If there was an issue that pulled you away from work, be honest but quickly move into how this contributed to something positive,” she says, adding that you should always be prepared to communicate why you’re now returning to work and communicate your excitement.
Being energetic and showing your enthusiasm to get back in the game and take on a new challenge is a good way to show the person you’re speaking with that you’re in control of your story and the direction you want to go in.
Last but not least…

Be confident.
Having to explain a gap in your resume to someone, especially someone who might potentially employ you, is nerve-wracking. But know that you’re not alone. Owning your story and telling it with confidence, as well as showing them you’re confident that you’re ready to take on new work is a way to set yourself apart from the other candidates.

All the best