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The Dreaded Employment Gap

Posted on February 22, 2017
The Dreaded Employment Gap

I get questions every so often about employment gaps and how to handle them on resumes because they can invite unwanted questions. The gaps can occur for many reasons: a lost job, a spouse’s job promotion and subsequent move, raising children, or caring for a sick child or elderly parent, to name a few.

So, what is the best way to handle the gap on a resume?

There are two ways to address it:

  • Education — If you went back to school, add that to the education section of your resume, and it won’t be viewed as a gap. If you didn’t go back to school, but you took a couple of courses or attended seminars or conferences, list those experiences to demonstrate that you remained current with your industry. If the classes, seminars, or conferences are not directly relatable to your industry, then find a way to connect them. For example, a creative writing class can be connected to the banking industry because you were honing your writing skills.
  • Volunteer Experience — It is unlikely that you only sat at home and watched television during your employment gap, so make a list of things you did, especially any volunteer experience. And, it doesn’t have to be formal volunteer experience, such as spending every Saturday with Habitat for Humanity; maybe a friend asked you to edit a marketing brochure for a nonprofit. You can list those experiences and what you did to demonstrate you were active and using business acumen even though you were not formally employed.

What if you didn’t volunteer and have little work experience? Then you create a skills-based resume versus the more traditional experience-based one. Tailor the skills on the resume to the skills listed in the job description. If you were caring for a ailing parent, then you have demonstrable skills in organization, time management, communication, managing people, reliability, and problem-solving.

If your gap is due to the inability to find a job, then start volunteering now to add valuable experience to your resume.

When it comes to the interview, be factual about your experience gap, but never apologize. There is nothing wrong with stepping away from a job to raise children or care for an elderly parent. If a potential company insinuates that there is something wrong, then perhaps you should look elsewhere, because it is likely it won’t be a good fit.


Anne Converse Willkomm
Director of Graduate Studies
Goodwin College
Drexel University

Posted in professional-development-career-tips