Gaps in your resume are common and sometimes unavoidable. Short gaps in your resume rarely require an explanation. Likewise, gaps which occurred more than 10 years ago are easy to ignore as well. But sometimes there is no way to avoid long gaps in your recent employment history which you feel you need to explain or hide. There are many perfectly acceptable reasons for this: you were made redundant, you were caring for a sick relative, you did some travel, you raised a family, or you became ill or were injured. However, if you’re worried that a long gap might make your job application look negative to a potential employer, here are 4 tips to address those gaps in your resume:
1. Substitute other experience. What else can fill that gap if not professional experience? Did you do any freelancing or consulting? Did you do any volunteer work? Did you enrol in a night course and further your study? Did you complete a seasonal internship? These are all acceptable substitutes which you can use to fill the gaps in your resume.
2. Restructure your resume. Removing the months and only stating the years of your employment can be a good way to hide some gaps in your employment history. You can also highlight your professional skills, your education, your summary profile, your career highlights, or your technical skills at the top of your resume, above your employment history. This is a good way to focus on what you bring to a job, rather than putting the focus on those gaps. You can also choose to restructure your resume thematically, and list several jobs under one theme or heading (e.g. “Sales”) which helps to reduce the appearance of job-hopping and gaps.
3. Get up to date. If you're returning to the workforce after an extended absence, show that you've kept up with the industry. Have you written and/or published an article on the changes in your industry? Have you honed any technical skills through refresher courses? Have you updated your work portfolio to show potential employers? These can be great ways to show that you’re ready to jump back in the workforce.
4. Keep it positive. Even if a job application doesn’t ask for a cover letter, you should still try and submit one wherever possible so that you can really nail your pitch for why you are interested in a position and what you will bring to that company. This is a great way to accentuate the positives in your resume and skill set, particularly when there is no way to hide or fill a particularly large gap in your employment history. If you wish to address the gap in your cover letter, you can, but keep it brief and don’t apologise – there’s no need, as you’ve done nothing wrong!
Basically, don’t ignore or lie about gaps in your resume – addressing these head on can actually work in your favour. You won't need to share all the details, but providing an explanation can remove doubts, highlight your readiness to return to the workforce, and showcase your strengths.