When it comes to your resume, honesty is the best policy. Never lie about your work experience and create a situation that could result in not getting your dream job. There are strategies you should follow when explaining a gap in your work history, and they all have to do with how you position the gap to address career growth.
Employment gaps—what happened?
You can explain a lapse in employment in your cover letter, during your interview, or both. Be up front and bring it up without being asked, usually when the interviewer moves into the work experience portion of the conversation. First, explain why you weren’t working. This could include time off to volunteer, study abroad, travel, raise your children or take a course. It could also include being laid off or fired from a job, and having a difficult time finding a new one.
What did you learn?
While you were unemployed, what did you learn that could benefit your career? If you were let go from a job, briefly explain what happened (in as upbeat a manner as possible, without pointing fingers) and how it ultimately made you a better worker. Show you learned from the situation, and how you’d handle a similar situation in the future.
If you took time off, get creative with your answer. Maybe chasing after children and running a household allowed you to perfect time management and multitasking skills. If you traveled, what did you learn about patience and adaptability? As human beings, we are always learning—think about the skills you’ve gained you can now apply to your career.
Aside from discussion, keep your resume up to date. In your work history section, especially if you’ve been in the working world for a while, trim out employment older than 10-15 years ago. It also helps to clean up the formatting of your resume to list employment dates simply as years, rather than months and years. For example, you worked at XYZ job from 2014–2016. These simple edits may help you minimize employment gaps.
What to remember
No one is perfect, and employers don’t expect you are, either. It’s noble to admit work gaps—the key is to explain what happened and how it helped you learn and grow.
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