How to Explain Employment Gaps

On 13 April 2015 by Alisa Damaso



Since the recession hit, hiring managers have become used to seeing employment lapses on applicants’ resumes. That’s why the cover letter is important – whether you were laid off, went back to school, or spent a couple months taking a break, it’s an opportunity to address these gaps. Here’s how.

Downplay the Gaps

Let’s start with your resume. If you’ve held a position for more than a year, leave out the months in the durations; this should give some allowance between gaps and reduce speculation. You can also arrange the composition of your resume to emphasize your strengths and achievements rather than your work chronology. Open with a strong objective statement or qualifications summary, then list your most significant accomplishments, and work history and education can follow.

Emphasize Experience

All work experience counts. If you worked part-time or did some freelancing during your extended work gap, list these in your work history. If you volunteered somewhere during this time, list it in a Volunteer Work section. Include the position, company, job description and duration of the role. If you had more schooling or training, include the courses in the Education section of your resume.

Writing the Cover Letter

Tailoring a cover letter for each separate application may be tedious, but simply copy/pasting the exact same letter to everyone won’t get you to the next stage. Put time and consideration into representing yourself as the best candidate for each position you apply for. Writing custom cover letters shows you take your job search seriously and expresses your genuine interest in the specific company and role. If you have the skills and experience for the job, throw in your well-written cover letter and you’ll more than likely get an interview. Here are my tips for the cover letter:

  1. Try writing a mock letter containing a few general paragraphs that can be used again (include relevant career highlights, skills, achievements, etc.) and back up this file in Google Docs or Microsoft Word. This gives you more time to focus on filling in the blanks when writing the tailored parts of the letter.
  2. In the first paragraph, grab the employer by stating how you heard of the position and what impresses or excites you about their company. In the next paragraph, illustrate how your relevant skills, qualifications, education and experience will benefit the organization.
  3. Now it’s time to acknowledge your employment gap/s, unapologetically, with a short explanation and what you learned during this time. If you attended classes or took on any other projects, allude to them to stress that you’ve kept active. Use positive language and only supply facts that will improve your value to the employer.
  4. Then, close the letter by thanking the reader for their time and include your signature. Don’t forget to proofread your letter or have someone else take a look at it to correct any spelling, grammar or syntax errors.
  5. Plan to follow up with the person in three to seven days.

Put the effort in. Account for those time gaps with confidence — this may just earn you a callback.


Do you have any tips or tricks on how to account for employment gaps? Share them below.


Alisa Damaso

Alisa Damaso is an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer based
in the San Francisco Bay Area. She enjoys the magic of the outdoors,
watching campy horror movies, and singing songs about food getting
stuck in her teeth. Her hand is married to a pencil and she never leaves
the house without a sketchbook.

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