This is how you explain gaps on your resume

Don’t worry if you have a gap on your resume—it’s all about how you explain your experience.

This is how you explain gaps on your resume

A gap on your resume shouldn't stop you from applying for a new job.

Resume gap. Even the phrase is scary, calling to mind yawning chasms void of all light and sound—and any hope for a new job. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Knowing how to explain gaps in your employment history isn't as difficult as you may think. There are dozens of reasons why you might have gaps in your resume. Good news: If you know how to explain it well, it won’t hinder your job search.

Whether you just graduated into a down jobs market, got laid off or furloughed, took time off to raise kids or take care of a family member, started a job you hated and quit without another job lined up, traveled the world, or something else entirely, it is all about how you explain your experience that's going get the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager.

Even if you feel awkward about your resume gaps, trust us—shedding light on the situation will be better than simply leaving it to an employer’s imagination. Here are three ways to explain gaps in your resume and come off as the great candidate that you are. 

Be positive

You might have been hoping that the folks interviewing you would take a quick look at your resume and completely miss the fact that you didn’t work for two years—but, we’re sorry to report, that’s not going to happen. When figuring out how to explain gaps in your employment history, you can almost always find some value in it. 

As you're preparing for your job interview by practicing your answers to the most common job interview questions and researching the company, try to identify a few things you gained from your time away. Whether it’s a stretch of freelancing experience, a handful of new skills you picked up during your time off, or a realization of what you’re really passionate about, there’s often a way to frame resume gaps as a period of personal and professional growth rather than just downtime.

Focus on how your experience contributed to your professional development. Shift the focus away from a gap in work to what you learned and accomplished and the transferable skills that will make you a great hire for this job. 

Be proactive

If you worked at all or volunteered during the gap, include it on your resume. Demonstrate how you stayed active and learned some new skills.

Did you pick up freelance work, take a part-time job, start your own business, or work on a passion project? Include it in your resume and cover letter. (If you freelanced and had multiple clients or projects, you can group it together under a catch-all like "freelance web developer.")

Just like with the full-time jobs on your resume, don’t just list your responsibilities—show what you accomplished. If you went back to school, took one-off classes to learn new skills, or completed certification programs, add it to the education section on your resume along with the dates. 

Be honest

This is a big one. Lying about your resume gap is a really, really bad idea. Don’t change the dates of employment so it looks like you're still working at the company or shift them so it seems like you have a shorter gap. Employers can verify your career history, and you could get fired for lying on your resume. Honesty is always the best policy.

If someone asks why you left your job, be honest without talking badly about your previous employer or boss. If you were laid off, explain that the company had budget cuts or restructured and that you were let go. Keep it positive and say that you enjoyed your time at the company, learned skills, and that you are proud of what you accomplished.

Transition by tying what you learned and accomplished into why you would be great for the job at hand. If you quit your job without having another lined up, explain what you learned and achieved, what you are looking for in your next job and role, and why that led you to apply to this job. 

If you left to be a stay-at-home parent, take care of a family member, were sick, or even quit to travel the world, you can simply say that without diving into details.

There are so many reasons that someone’s career trajectory might have a gap of a few months or a few years—a good employer should be focused on the here and now. After all, the most important thing should be the value you’ll bring to the company.

Be Smart

The interview is your best chance to demonstrate the value you bring to the company, so don't fumble with how to explain gaps in your employment. Worried about those resume gaps in employment and need some help? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you'll get interview insights, career advice, and job search tips sent directly to your inbox. Let Monster help you create a job search strategy that will help you land an awesome new position.