Even the most hardworking, skilled or experienced person might end up unemployed for some period of time. If this recently happened to you, don’t despair. If you handle the situation right, you can certainly get any job you want even with a gap in your resume.
There are plenty of reasons for career gaps. There may have been some internal issues in the company you worked for (change in the management, downsizing, etc.); you or your relatives may have been ill; you may have traveled around the world, took courses, or just couldn’t find a job of your dreams and didn’t want to settle for one that wasn’t right.
Whatever the case was, the key is to explain the gap up front in your resume. Many people fail to do this and hope a recruiter doesn’t notice or that they’ll clear things up on an interview. Wrong, of course. He or she definitely will notice, and if you don’t provide an explanation, there might not be any interview.
Without explanation, a recruiter will automatically think you’ve been either unable or unwilling to get a job. Neither of these is very optimistic. Recruiters just don’t like seeing any implication of stagnation, instability or lack of ambition.
So, how best to explain a gap?
1. Keep it positive
Both you and the recruiter know a career gap is not good, but there’s a silver lining. Always try and sound as positive as you can. If you left your previous job, emphasize it was your choice and that you were unemployed for a reason. If you were let go, talk about what this job gave you and what values you’re ready to bring to your new position. Also, a gap in your career history doesn’t necessarily mean you were inactive or slacking off. Read our next point.
2. Emphasize that you kept yourself busy
Do not give the recruiter a reason to believe you were resting on your laurels. The key is to keep yourself busy and work on improving your skills. When explaining your gap, always mention what activities you did in between your jobs and how these activities helped you move forward.
If you did any freelance work, volunteering or charity work, definitely list it in your work experience and tell what skills and abilities this job gave you. Or have you started a blog or took a break to focus on your creative writing? Perfect, that’s something recruiters appreciate. Or you might have attended courses, seminars, or classes to improve your expertise. Even better!
If you did neither of these, at least give an impression you stayed involved in your profession and worked on developing your skills and knowledge. Say you read books and learned new things by yourself.
Last but not least, a thing that would definitely excuse a gap is traveling. Because even if you were inactive in your profession, traveling gives you plenty of other assets on a personal level which recruiters love.
3. Focus on your progress
With or without a gap, your resume should point out you're moving forward and not that you’re stagnant. If there’s a gap in your employment, your resume should speak more about your future than your past. This might sound weird, but what we want to say is this: write your resume in a way it focuses on your continual progress and your ambition. Let anyone who reads your resume know that you can be a valuable employee with plenty of skills this or that company can benefit from.
4. Be honest and specific
In the case of career gaps, honesty is the best policy. Whether you were the “victim” of downsizing or restructuring or simply fired, you should face it and admit it, however unpleasant it might be. You shouldn’t lie because your next employer might find out the truth and you could easily end up on the list of shame. Goes without saying, you should not go into details, more especially if those do not play in your favor. Just stay positive and don’t let one little stumbling ruin your next career opportunities! Good luck.