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Gaps in My Resume and What I did About Them

Are you worried about the gaps in your resume?  Think they might be preventing you from getting a decent job?  Me too !  Well, at least I used to feel that way.

I’ve had a little bit of success making money from home: Picked up a few freelance gigs here and there (thanks to Upwork), made a few bucks with MTurk, wrote a few how-to gardening articles.  But now I’m re-thinking the whole job thing.  I want to continue working remotely AND have a career with a stable company.  I want more than the little tasks and freelancing gigs and I know a resume is needed for the work from home jobs I am interested in.

So I blew the dust off my resume.  Yikes !  I did NOT like what I read.  It was so out of date it was embarrassing.  But more than that, I haven’t worked a “real” job for a few years so there was a large gap in my work history.  I knew I had to spice it up and fill in the gap.

The Skill Of Explaining The Employment Gap.

I’ve always had little gaps in my work history and the one thing I’ve learned from going on interviews was that hiring managers didn’t really care about these little gaps.  They realize people get caught between jobs and spend time looking for work during that time.

One thing to remember is employers are in a hurry to read through their stack of resumes. They scan through hundreds of them, quickly making a pile of “possibles” and a pile of “file for 6 months then throw away”.  Being able to answer some of their questions upfront will get you a better chance of getting into the “possibles” pile.

Sadly, some companies don’t like huge gaps because they think they may have to invest too much time and money into training.  Not only that, long gaps might give the wrong impression.  Thoughts of laziness, incompetence, and bad behavior cross the minds of many employers.  This is why it is important to really think about all the circumstances surrounding your employment gap.

So, Before I polished up my resume, I asked myself these questions:

  • Why did the gap occur?
  • What did I do during that time? freelance? work for a temporary agency? volunteer? consult?
  • Did any of these activities relate to my job goal?
  • Did I learn a new skill or interest?
  • Have I been keeping up-to-date on my kills?

How I answered these questions determined how I would treat the gaps on my resume.

Here are my tips:

Some Gaps Can Be Disguised

One way of explaining work gaps is to disguise them.  Not being sneaky, just making it less obvious your were out of work.  It’s easy to disguise your gaps, but only if the time between jobs is a few weeks to a few months.

When listing your work history, don’t use months. Stick with years.

Instead of this:

Accounts Receivable Clerk, November 2013 – April 2015
(company name and bullet points of your responsibilities)
Jr. Accountant, June 2011 – May 2013
(company name and bullet points of your responsibilities)

Do this:

Accounts Receivable Clerk, 2013-2015
(company name and bullet points of your responsibilities)
Jr. Accountant, 2011-2013
(company name and bullet points of your responsibilities)

See how the years flow better than the months?  Gaps are disguised.

Large Gaps Need Explaining

if your resume screams “GAP !”, the hiring manager will surely ask why you didn’t work during that time. Gaps of longer than a few months – and even years – are not easy to disguise. They need some explaining.  Use your resume to explain your gaps just like you are listing another past job position.

So, if you did volunteer work while unemployed, list it as part of your work history, like this:

Volunteer Coordinator, 2013-present
(place you volunteered and bullet points of your responsibilities)
Jr. Accountant, 2011-2013
(company name and bullet points of your responsibilities)

If you used your time off to expand your horizons, beef up your knowledge in certain areas, learn new skills, or do some freelancing gigs, list it. Put this information on your resume just like it is a past job.  This will instill confidence and let the employer know you mean business.

Gaps Caused by Special Circumstances

What do you do if you took time off work to care for a family member ? Or to stay home with your kids? These can be HUGE gaps.  You can’t really list these things on your resume.  But you CAN explain them in your cover letter.

Simply write a sentence or two that summarizes these types of gaps, like this:

“During the Summer of 2013 I raised my children while expanding on my coding skills.”


“After leaving such-and-such company in 2014, I cared for an ill family member until the timing was right to proceed with my job search.”

One last piece of wisdom: It may take a few days to get your resume just right, but being honest from the start about your work history gaps will get you closer to getting the job you want.

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