Employment Gaps on Your Resume

I have discussed this week’s topic often with job seekers as it is a common challenge to address when preparing your resume:

How do I overcome gaps in my employment history on my resume?

Given the state of the job market over the last several years, it is quite common for individuals to have short term or even long term gaps on their resume. There are plenty of strategies you can use to minimize these gaps and highlight your experience in a way that overcomes any negative first impressions. Here are four things you should consider if your work history contains gaps:

  1. Consider using only the years of employment at each position you have held instead of the months and years. This can conceal any short gaps you may have had while searching for a new position and help to keep your work history fluid.
  2. If you volunteered, freelanced, or held contract positions during a gap in employment, make sure to add this to your resume. While it may not be directly related to the position or industry you are targeting, this type of work hones transferrable skills that most employers value.
  3. If the gap in your work history is beyond 15-20 years ago, it is advisable to simply leave off any of the positions you held prior to that point. Employers take the “what have you done for me lately?” mentality when considering candidates and are more concerned with your recent, relevant experience.
  4. Crafting a functional resume that emphasizes your key skills and accomplishments can be an effective way to minimize gaps as well as implement keywords related to the industry or job posting you’re targeting. Functional resume formats list overarching skills with bulleted examples of how you obtained the skills and why you are effective in each category. Usually a section follows with a brief outline of your work history.

If you are mired in an employment gap and not having success with interviews, make the best use of this time as it pertains to your career. Find avenues to volunteer, work as a freelancer, develop a blog related to your industry, take courses related to your field, and most importantly: stay positive! Your attitude shines through in an interview setting and can make or break your chances.

Having a gap in your work history is certainly an obstacle, but one that can be overcome by implementing the strategies outlined above. It may take some trial and error at first to determine the best approach to take, but by staying proactive in your search and honing your resume content, it will pay off in the end!

16 comments

  1. Because I needed a knee replacemen but no one would do ot cause my age but I got it done this year and I am 100% so I hope you dont discriminate againt disability but onxce again im 100 %

  2. I have done all of the above and still am having difficulty finding employment. My skills are current and I have tested at 65 wpm typing and have passed Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook skill tests with a 95% score or better.
    I really think that my age is a factor as I am 58 years old. Companies can’t imply that as a reason; however the rejection letters usually read, “although your skills are excellent, we have found a candidate who better matches the position”.
    Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

  3. Linda,
    Have you tried employment/temporary agencies? Even if you are looking for permanent job, try getting day or long-term temp jobs while you are looking. You’ll have some income, you’ll stay in practice and it helps confidence, and you get exposure. At agencies, good ones, anyway, they can see your value, help sell you as a candidate and get you in the door.
    Once you do a good job at multiple places, some are bound to take notice and request you. If you can get a direct hire, of course that’s best, but in the meantime, try a day or a temp-to-perm job, where you are hired after a trial period. Try to have a agreement beforehand on the length of the “trial period”. If it lasts longer than three months and they don’t hire, keep looking – you don’t want to work for exploiters, and if you are hired, request that the trial period be applied to your accruement of benefits – they may give it to you.
    Don’t pay any employment agency fees, their clients usually pay, and shop around – some are good, others good-for-nothing. Non-profit jobs usually pay less, but try to make up for it with benefits, and some may be more open to older workers. Good luck, you can do it!
    Maris

  4. My experience has been similar, no i think worse,i call it the triple threat,for one i am over the age of fifty,two-i have those gaps thru out my employment history from 92 on,was a union carpenter local 157 in the city,key word was,so it was a job,a lay off,a job,a lay off,you get the picture. And finely,three no car,lack of transportation,as the economy got worse and the list for work got longer,upwards of eight thousand,the wait for work did to,so pay dues for upwards of a year while not working or a roof,and food,no brain-er.soc.services,not much help,dept. of labor looking into w.i.a. grant for c.d.l. was a teamster in the past, worked for Newmark&Lewis,and told if on assistance not eligible? WHAT.Not from what i have read on U.S. Dept. of labor site,VERY FRUSTRATING.

  5. been there and done all ,after 50 they all look the other way. even the Gov. and state people who they say are trying to get you work.And at holiday they don’t give a damm if you get your check or not, Tis a sham that this county has gone to HELL IN A BIG BASKET. even the people in washington could care less about the working person.They have lined their pockets, and give me your vote

  6. Just turned 50 and realizing how scary it is for us. I changed careers thinking becoming a teacher would be a good choice, even though the money stinks. It’s turning out to be more difficult even in teaching. The current state of affairs in this country is killing us!

  7. Well i have some of a past a criminal record i pled guilty to some thing i didnt do and now i cant get a job what should i do

  8. If you are an artist and made use of your unemployment time to paint, is it a good idea to mention this? From my experience, it doesn’t seem to. What if you sold a few paintings?
    If you are home with a mentally ill family member (even though I wanted to be working, there were many times when it was a good thing I was home), should you mention this? I don’t think it would go over well.

  9. Over 50 well you can be a Walmart greeter. Qualifications handi capped or old 🙂 seriously though leave your age out of your résumé. Like most people if you look good on paper and are a good interview you squeak by no matter what your age is. Practice your interview skills hope this may help a lil

  10. Hey Mary there was a period of time that I had moved back in with my mother who had breast cancer to take care of her till the end. I use it on my resumes I don’t see why not it explains that I wasn’t just sitting at home collecting or worse doing nothing.

  11. I had to quit my job because my employer would not work with me and my medical condition. I was not asking (and neither were my doctor’s)for preferential treatment, just allowances. So now it has been quite some time that I have been out of work. I am limited on some of the job opportunities i.e. factory work, nursing, elder care-the physical exertion etc. I would love to work with children but all the places I see require degrees even for day cares. To me, being loving and nurturing are better than a piece of paper. Thank you for letting me vent.

  12. I HAVE WORKED IN EUROPE FOR 20 YEARS FOR MULTINATIONALS. I AM NOT EMPLOYABLE BECAUSE I TAKE TIME OFF TO ENJOY LIFE. I HAVE TO WORK EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE UNTIL I DROP? I GUESS I AM GOING BACK TO GERMANYH.

  13. If any corporate ‘officers’ even bother to read any more, read this; Persons of a mature age have learned all the short cuts that work, have extensive job knowledge that often spans industries or continents and they bring with them essential ideas.
    Case in point; Gordon Ramsey the Master Chef.
    Ever wondered why older guys get the same done (properly, not half-way) but manage not to look like they move fast? Oh and what about corporate types….surely THEY are too slow and fat to do any good anymore? Put a twenty-two year-old guy in there. See how you fare.
    …..or perhaps the corporate types want it all DONE half-way, then charge for a whole job…..older guys won’t go for that – it’s often called racketeering.
    Corporations should demonstrate an example for our young, NOT how to get themselves in a jam on a RICO case.

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