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How to Best Handle a Resume Gap

Whether it was to support loved ones, provide childcare, recover from health issues or as part of a furlough or layoff, the past few years have caused a vast number of people to temporarily leave their careers. For job seekers who fear a resume gap will make their search trickier, here are some tips for overcoming.

Tell the truth

Hiring managers, recruiters and organizations know how difficult the pandemic has been on everyone and will not hold a temporary work stoppage against you. Be honest on your resume and fill the gap with what caused your absence. Go into as much detail as makes you comfortable, but don’t feel the necessity to elaborate. A simple line with “full-time parenting,” “caring for an aging parent,” “pursuing an advanced degree” or “documenting my travel adventures” with the corresponding dates should suffice. Career breaks are so common nowadays that LinkedIn has even created a feature to capture this information in your Experience section.

Consider contract work

If you’re re-entering the workforce and not sure where to start your search, consider taking a temporary or contract assignment. Work, even contract work, makes you a more desirable candidate for a permanent position. Not only can you keep your skills fresh, but hiring managers feel more confident about employing a person who was recently hired. An added bonus: you will have money coming in so you won’t need to jump at your first permanent job offer.

Give back

Not only does volunteer work make you feel good, it can also cover gaps in your resume. Look for industry or functional-specific roles to ensure the work will wow prospective employers. Many charitable organizations would welcome professionals with project management, leadership, clinical, technology or other business expertise. Giving your time now could help you get that next job.

Find your voice

The worst thing you can do when asked about your resume gap is stammer and make excuses. You need to explain the gap in a positive, concise manner. Whatever your reason (you took time off to start a family, get a degree, care for a sick relative, etc.), get comfortable telling your story. Include a sentence in your cover letter and develop a 30-second “elevator speech” for interviews. If you address the gap quickly and with authority, you and the interviewer can move on to more important topics like your skills and experience.

Showcase your achievements

If you’re convinced your resume gap will impact interview opportunities, forgo the traditional method of drafting your resume and feature your achievements first. You can list your key experience from all of your jobs together. Include statements like, “Managed a team of ten people. Oversaw $500K budget. Provided QA for five clinical studies.” You can then list the dates and companies later in the document. By organizing your resume this way, you move the focus from dates to accomplishments.

Highlight years worked

Some people downplay gaps by listing years instead of months and years in the resume. Beware that some employers won’t appreciate this strategy, and we don’t encourage this approach, but it is acceptable and may help to make your work experience look more comprehensive on paper. Make sure your resume is 100% accurate, though. All organizations will check references and you don’t want to risk an opportunity by fudging the truth.

Gaps in your resume shouldn’t keep you from landing a job, especially breaks during the past few years. By rounding out your experience, tweaking your resume, being honest, and practicing interview strategies, you will soon be able to add another position to your resume.

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