A Guide to Explaining Your Employment Gap

Gaps in employment are a common occurrence. So why are they so stressful to explain?

Many people are worried that an employment gap can signal a red flag to employers — and while that can be true, approaching your employment gap with the right attitude can show potential employers that you are accountable, honest, and hard working. Keep reading for a complete guide to explaining your employment gap. 

  1. Unemployment

Explaining a resume gap due to unemployment can be very stressful, but with the current economic climate it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Millions of people found themselves out of a job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so employers will likely understand if you have a gap in your resume due to the events of 2020.

So if this employment gap is so common, why do I need to figure out how to explain it?” While this employment gap may be common, that doesn’t mean that employers will accept it without question. To stand out above the rest, be sure to emphasize what you did or learned during your time at home to show that you were actively engaged in learning while unemployed.

  1. Travelling

Explaining a travel-related gap is a fine line to walk because the reasons for travel can be so varied. Maybe you took a gap year between school and work, or maybe you travelled to volunteer in a foreign country. No matter the reason, explaining your travel gap is something that should be done carefully.

Highlight what you learned while travelling that can’t be taught in a classroom or an office. Things like communication, a new language, or cultural literacy are all great skills to highlight when explaining a travel gap.

  1. Schooling

Attending school is thankfully one of the easier employment gaps to explain, but it’s still important to approach the topic correctly. Explain why you chose to go back to school, what you learned in school that can’t be taught in the office, and how the skills you learned leveled up your knowledge as an employee. 

  1. Unrelated Job

If you worked a job in an unrelated field to your career, deciding whether to include it on your resume can be difficult. On one hand, you don’t want to take up valuable space with an irrelevant position. On the other hand, it may be a red flag to employers if you don’t include any sort of employment history for the time period.

Regardless of what you decide to do, it’s important to at least mention your unrelated job during an interview. Even if you briefly acknowledge the position and move on, you want to let employers know that you had some sort of employment during that period of time. 

  1. Family Leave

If you left your job for family-related reasons, most employers will usually understand. Whether you took maternity or paternity leave or took time off to care for the elderly, explaining your choice to employers is paramount so they understand why you chose to put your professional life on hold. Be sure to focus on the skills you learned during your time with family like compassion, time management, and communication.

Whether you are trying to ace a stressful interview process or preparing for an relaxed informational interview, it’s important to understand how you are going to explain a gap in your resume. For tips on what to say for each type of employment gap, check out the infographic below. 

Brian Farrell is a coach, helping clients achieve their personal and professional goals. He's also the creator of the "QA2 Method". For more about Brian, visit bfarrell.com