How to Address or Fill Gaps In Your Resume

These days, it’s not unusual to have gaps in your employment history. Don’t let them keep you from pursuing your job search. Here’s how to put your best foot forward.

Accept Your Reality
If you became unemployed during the last few years, it’s understandable. Since 2008, the country has experienced a deep recession during which the average unemployment rate has remained around 10% nationally. A gap from those years will look considerably better on a resume than one from 2005 when the economy was booming. Either way, be ready to be honest and address any gaps, but don’t dwell on them during interviews. Do you have an acceptable reason for the break in your work experience? Did you take some time off when you started your family or cared for a sick relative? Did you go back to school? Whatever your reason, get comfortable telling your story concisely.
In addition to a brief explanation to include in any cover letters, develop a 30-second “elevator speech” so you can quickly and confidently address your resume gaps during an interview.

Adjust Your Resume
Instead of laying out your employment history in months and years on your resume, such as March 2004 – January 2008, simply use the years: 2004-2008. First of all, it’s easier to follow and helps your resume look clear and concise. It also doesn’t raise any red flags unnecessarily, if there was an employment gap of a few months. If that comes up in the interview, by all means be honest about those months and what you were doing, but don’t point it out. You can also try featuring your achivements first, instead of the traditional chronological method of listing dates and jobs at the top, although this can also raise a red flag.

Do Contract Work or Side Projects
If you’re currently unemployed, consider taking contract or temporary work, especially in your industry. Hiring managers will like to see that you’re staying busy and keeping your skills fresh. You can still search for a permanent post while you take on project or temporary work, and it allows for you to have some flexibility. And, with income coming in, it may take the pressure off from feeling like you need to jump at the first permanent job offer to come along.

Improve Your Skills
If contract or temp work isn’t an option, you can also take the time to invest in your professional development by taking classes. Professional associations, local colleges, continuing education programs, alumni associations, user groups, online courses and unemployment offices offer a variety of low-cost training opportunities. This will give you something to list on your resume to help explain what you did during your time away from work.

Volunteer Your Time
Another way to show initiative while you’re unemployed is to find a solid volunteer opportunity. Your volunteer work should be targeted and industry- or function-specific, though, or it may not have an impact on a prospective employer. While serving meals in a soup kitchen is noble work, it doesn’t add substance to your resume. Depending on your field, you could donate your time and expertise to a charity of your choice. Many of these organizations would welcome financial, marketing, technology, management, or other business expertise.

Regardless of how you handle your employment gaps, do it in a positive way. There’s nothing you can do to change the fact that they happened, so learn to present them positively — and if you’re currently unemployed, choose a way to fill those gaps constructively!