What to Know About Explaining a Gap in Employment

Michaela Wong is a content creator who helps Resume Now create insightful career development articles. She is a graduate of San Diego State University with a background in digital marketing. In her free time, she enjoys reading and exploring her home state of California with her corgi.

Let’s not sugar coat it — explaining a gap in employment is stressful. Whether you took time off to care for a family member or were unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, explaining your resume gap during an interview is enough to make anyone sweat. 

But explaining your resume gap doesn’t have to be that way. If you approach the topic right, you can turn something traditionally negative into a much more productive conversation about what you learned during your employment gap and how you can be an effective worker in your career.

What’s an Employment Gap?

Before anything else, it’s crucial to understand what an employment gap really is. If you took two or three months between jobs, it’s usually not considered an employment gap but rather a job searching period. However, stretch that period to nine or ten months and most employers would consider that a full-fledged employment gap.

Job hopping

Similar to employment gaps is the concept of job-hopping. While job-hopping may lead to more of a raised eyebrow than having to fully answer questions about your career history, it is important to understand what job-hopping is and why you should avoid it. 

Job hopping refers to leaving your job in less than one year. If you have a history of job-hopping, it may lead employers to believe that you could do the same thing to their company — something that is a big red flag in employer’s books.

leadership

If you took two or three months between jobs, it’s usually not considered an employment gap but rather a job searching period.

MICHAELA WONG

Common Employment Gaps

There are 5 common types of employment gaps that you may need to explain to an interviewer. No matter the reason for your gap, it’s important to come prepared with an answer as to why you had the gap and what you learned from it. Here are the most common types of employment gaps:

  1. Unemployment: An unemployment gap is any period of over six months you spent without a job. With these types of gaps, it’s important to highlight any other skills you picked up during the time period like classes you took, certifications you achieved, or conferences you attended.
  2. Travel: A travel-related employment gap can be tough to explain since many employers will assume it was just a long vacation.  However, you should be sure to highlight any skills you picked up that can’t be taught in an office, like cultural understanding and international communication.
  3. School: If you went back to school, it’s usually not too difficult to explain to employers. Just be sure to highlight how your additional schooling benefitted your skillset and leveled up your offerings compared to similar candidates.
  4. Irrelevant job: If you took a non-relevant job to make ends meet, be sure to address it at least briefly during the interview to avoid having a potential employer wonder about the missing period of time on your resume.
  5. Taking care of family: This is usually a pretty understandable type of employment gap. However, to show employers that you’re still a competitive candidate, be sure to highlight new skills you learned and previous skills you kept up during your time away. 

Explaining an employment gap doesn’t have to be that stressful. If you focus on the positives of what you learned rather than shying away from the gap, it shows employers that you are honest and ready to dive back into your career. For a complete guide to explaining your employment gap, check out the infographic below.

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