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by Andrew Fennell | August 04, 2020

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If there’s a gap in your employment history because you were out of work, spent time traveling, or took time off to care for a family member, you might be concerned that it doesn’t make you look professional, reliable, and skilled. The good news is employers don’t care about resumé gaps as much as you might think—as long as you address those gaps. Here are five ways to address employment gaps and sell yourself as a solid job candidate.

1. Reshuffle your resumé layout

When you think about a gap in your employment, you’re probably imagining a huge white space or an obvious lack of information that will make an employer immediately rule you out. In practice, it doesn’t look as dramatic as that.

You can make your employment gap appear less obvious without being dishonest. Changing dates from the month and year to just the year can help. If you’re concerned that travel or other time off has created a noticeable lack of detail, consider including temporary or volunteer work you did during the time, no matter how casual or brief. This will show the reader that, despite taking a few months or a year off, you still gained some experience.

2. Save the detail for where it’s most impactful

Your resumé should be detailed without overwhelming the reader (two pages max!) so it’s not the right place to insert a thorough explanation of why you didn’t work for a year. Instead, use the space available in your application or introductory email or phone call. This is where the employer or hiring manager wants more detail so make sure you give it to them.

3. Highlight the positives

Travel and gap years are character building and full of positive learning experiences. You don’t need to hide them away and pretend they never happened. 

When you have space to go into more detail, focus on what you learned and how it’s shaped your future career aspirations. Most important, tell the employer why you want this job in particular. It could be that this is the role you’ve been waiting for, you’re ready to move your career forward, or you’ve spent some time retraining for a new challenge.

4. Draw attention to your other plus points

Your career history is obviously important, but your education, volunteer work, and other skills are important, too. Whatever your reasons for taking some time away from your career, consider what else you were developing about yourself in that time. 

Make your resumé a showcase of your best qualities and experiences. This means giving previous roles a more detailed summary, highlighting your biggest achievements in each, and drawing out the main skills you developed. You can also elaborate on volunteering and work experience, courses taken, and any relevant long-term hobbies you’ve committed to. Have you coached a team? Worked with kids? Volunteered for a charity? Tell about it!

5. Be positive

If employers do have concerns about resumé gaps, it’s because it makes them doubt a candidate’s reliability. The gap itself isn’t the only factor here; the employer will also consider how you present yourself on the phone and in person, how long you stayed with previous organizations, and your education. Employers want to know that you finish what you start and that they can rely on you.

If you’re asked about any gaps during an interview, sell the benefits and great experiences of the gaps and reassure your interviewers you’re now ready to get back to work. As long as you put your best foot forward and are positive and proactive, any doubts will be put aside and the gaps will quickly close. 

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV. He is a former recruitment consultant and contributes career advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian, and FastCompany.

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