David has over 15 years supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge in how to handle personnel issues across many areas.
How to Explain a Gap in Employment History
There are many reasons why someone may have a gap in their employment history. Maybe they lost a job and decided to wait a while before getting another one, or, decided to raise a child before going back to work.
There are three steps to consider when thinking about how you will address a gap in employment history: resume, application, and interview.
How you handle addressing a gap in employment history will vary in each section, and could significantly impact your chances of landing a job.
There comes a moment during a job interview when you're still talking, but you might as well take off your shoes.
— Bill James
My Experience With a Gap in Employment History
Starting when I was 18-years-old I always held a job. For the most part my employment history has been consistent, obtaining better job or promotions with little to no gap between jobs.
However, I was fired from the first real job I had that made any significant money. There was a good six-month gap of employment between that job and securing another job.
During that six month break, I did a lot of things. However, the most significant was taking some basic office worker classes. I learned how to properly type on a keyboard, learned record keeping, and other office skills. For the next job I received, having those skills was critical and I provided the certificates from those classes I had taken. That lead me to the career I have today.
Explaining a Gap in Your Resume
The short answer to this is that you will not explain a gap in employment history on your resume, what so ever. Don't mention why there is a gap, don't try to explain it away, etc. Instead, you will do the following:
- List your employment history.
- List your education history.
As employers review your resume, they may or may not notice the gap. When I review resumes, I don't tend to check to see if there are any gaps in employment history, unless something really catches my eye.
In your employment or education history, you won't state why you left a position or stopped your education. Though, if you receive a degree, then that would easily explain it. When an employer is looking at your resume, their first question isn't why you left or how long you went without another job.
Explaining a Gap on Your Job Application
There is the potential a job application may ask for a chronological history of your employment. Job applications may also ask why you left a position. This is where a gap in employment history can be relevant.
If you are asked to provide dates of employment, but not why you left, then this shouldn't be an issue at this time. However, if there is a section that asks why you left a position, then you will need to address the gap in employment. There are two ways to do this:
- Explain in detail why you left a position. With this option, you can provide specifics. For example, you left to go back to school in order to seek a better position, or, you left so you could take care of your children since they were just starting high school.
- Briefly explain why you left a position. In this case, you will be brief about why you left a position. So in comparison with the examples above, you can state you wished to continue your education, or, so you could raise your children.
Now it may seem like each of those is saying the same thing. They are, but there are keyword differences.
- Education: In the detailed example, the goal stated was to secure a better job by continuing education. That part about wanting a better job isn't needed. Stating that you want to continue your education is enough.
- Children: In the detailed example, a statement was made that the children were in high school. That's too specific and unnecessary. It sounds like specific reasons may cause you to quit again. The brief statement is more succinct and sounds like you are ready for a long term job again.
Explaining a Gap During a Job Interview
This is the big one. During a job interview, this question may and probably will come up. You will want to be prepared on how to address this during the interview.
- Try to address the gap in employment history before you are asked about it. Don't state things like, "I'd like to address the gap in my employment history" or anything like that. Instead, segue into it. When asked to talk about yourself, your experience, etc., try to weave it in. It's recommended that you don't discuss the reason why there is a gap if it may hurt the chances in you landing the job.
- Be honest about it. Don't try to lie, cover it up, or come up with this reason that sounds great but isn't true at all. You may be asked to back it up. It's better to be honest and forthright about it. The interviewer will appreciate it.
- Be brief about it. Just like the job application, be brief why there is a gap. The more you talk about the gap in employment history, the deeper the hole you will dig for yourself. Keep it short and to the point.
Causes for Gaps in Employment History
Below are some common reasons why someone will have a gap in employment history, and how you can explain them if it were to come up.
- Childcare; This is a big reason I see often. For those who become a parent, they want to focus on raising their children. Once their children are grown, they would want to get back out and work. In this case, state you took time off work to raise your children, but now you feel ready to get back into the workforce.
- Family Issues: This could be a multitude of things. The biggest is that a family member, other than a child, needs medical care. Maybe a family member passed away and you need time away. You don't have to provide specific details, but you can state the issue has been resolved and you don't expect it to be an issue in the future.
- Personal Illness: Maybe your own health caused you to leave your work. Now that you are healthy, you are ready to get back to work. You typically aren't required to state why you were ill or that you even had an illness. However, explaining that you were ill and are now healthy may go a long way.
- Education: This is another reason I see a lot. Some people quit a job to continue their education. There are those who can work and get an education at the same time, but not everyone is like that. This should be easy to explain and be understandable to any prospective employers.
- Moving: Perhaps you moved to another city, state, province, etc., and had to take time off of work to do that. However, you may need to briefly state why you moved. Maybe to be closer to family, to a place with a better job market, etc.
- Job Termination: This can be a very common reason why there is a gap in employment history. Almost everyone who is fired or laid off will have a gap in their employment history. It's best to be direct and to the point on this. Click here to find out how to explain a job termination in detail on your resume, application, and interview.
- Self Employment: Self-employment in a way is a gap in employment history. It's easy enough to explain that you were self-employed, but then you have to explain why you are choosing to no longer to be self-employed. Maybe the market is bad for your line of work, you wanted a more stable job, etc.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 David Livermore
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on November 12, 2018:
Thank you as well!
richardtodd0830 on November 12, 2018:
I honestly have to tell you David, sir, even though I have so much to do and don't have time for this commen5 that I have never read such good advice for filling out applications and explaining 'crap' and I just wanted to tell you that it has made me feel more confident with applying for another job. thank you very much, you are truly the best, i am not kidding!
FlourishAnyway from USA on May 07, 2018:
I used to do a substantial amount of interviewing in HR and I’ve heard nearly every reason. You’re right about at some point people need to just stop talking. They need to anticipate the questions but not be afraid of them.
Savio Koman from Mumbai, India on May 06, 2018:
Nice one David! In fact, this is one of the most difficult topics to handle during an interview. In India at least, if this is not clarified during the interview, our documentation (like last salary slips, etc.) will reveal the gap and that then is considered as withholding information. So quite agree with you to be honest when we have to talk about it. Trust an article on "What kind of questions to expect regarding the gap in employment and ways to handle them" would be an awesome article as a follow-up to this one... .That assumes you have already not written one.. :)