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10 Best Tips and Strategies on How to Explain Gaps in Employment

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By Aakash Gupta

Founder and Remote Work Advocate

10 Best Tips and Strategies on How to Explain Gaps in Employment
Sometimes, life happens and we need to take time off work for personal or professional reasons. So, if you have an employment gap and you’re worried about how to explain it to a potential employer, statistics show that you’re not alone. Thankfully, an employment gap does not have to be a deal breaker. The key when it comes to wondering how to explain gaps in employment is to do so in a positive and professional manner. Your explanation should be able to reassure your potential employment that you’re still a strong candidate for the position.  In this article, we share some pro tips and strategies on how to explain gaps in employment and position yourself as a valuable asset to any organization. We also walk you through various employment gap scenarios and how to handle each one.

1. What is an Employment Gap?

What-is-an-Employment-Gap An employment gap refers to a period during a person’s professional career when they are not engaged in any formal paid work. This duration of unemployment may be due to different reasons, including health issues, personal circumstances, educational pursuits, and even professional reasons such as layoff or job search. Generally, employment gaps are typically measured in months or years and may impact a job seeker’s ability to secure new employment. This is especially true if the employment gaps are lengthy or frequent. Overall, an employment gap is a common occurrence in today's job market, and job seekers should not be discouraged if they have one. With the right approach and explanation, you can turn an employment gap into a positive aspect of your job search and we’ll show you how.

2. Why Should You Explain Your Employment Gap?

2.1 Demonstrates honesty and transparency

One of the best parts about explaining your employment gap is it demonstrates that you are honest and transparent about your career history. This can help build trust with potential employers and highlight your integrity as a candidate and a potential employee.

2.2 Shows accountability

Another reason you should explain your employment gap is that it shows that you take responsibility for your career and are willing to own up to any setbacks or challenges you’ve experienced. This is particularly relevant in instances of employment gaps due to layoffs or similar reasons. By explaining your employment gap, it shows that you’re accountable and willing to learn from your experiences

2.3 Highlights relevant experiences

Depending on the reason for your employment gap, you may have gained relevant experiences or skills during that time. By explaining your gap, you have an opportunity to highlight these experiences and highlight how they have prepared you for your next role

3. What are Some Major Reasons for Employment Gaps?

What-are-Some-Major-Reasons-for-Employment-Gaps

3.1 Personal reasons (health, family, education)

Personal reasons such as a medical condition, taking care of an ill family member, or academic pursuits may result in an employment gap. More often than not, potential employers consider these legitimate reasons and respect them.

3.2 Economic reasons (layoffs, company closures)

In other cases, economic factors such as layoffs, company downsizing, or closure can also result in someone having an employment gap. However, in cases like this, it is crucial that you highlight that the reason for the gap was beyond your control and not due to poor job performance or similar reasons.

3.3 Professional reasons (career change, sabbaticals)

Another reason some people take employment gaps is to take a break to pursue a career change or a sabbatical to recharge. While such reasons may not be as common, they can demonstrate to your potential employers that you are proactive and strategic about your career growth. However, knowing how to explain such gaps in employment is still critical.

3.4 Legal reasons (immigration issues, incarceration)

Finally, legal issues such immigration problems or incarceration can result in an employment gap. In these cases, it is important to be transparent and explain the situation to potential employers while emphasizing your current ability to work legally. 

4. Best Strategies to Explain Employment Gaps

Best-Strategies-to-Explain-Employment-Gaps

4.1 Be honest and transparent

Honesty and transparency are key when are figuring out how to explain gaps in employment. Therefore, you should generally avoid making up false stories or providing misleading information when explaining the gap. Instead, be upfront about why you have the employment gap and provide any relevant information.

4.2 Highlight relevant experiences during the gap

In addition to being sincere about your employment gap, it is also always a good idea to highlight relevant activities you undertook during that time. For instance, if you freelanced, volunteered, or took courses related to your career during your employment gap, make sure to mention them. This way, your potential employers can see that you used your time productively or learned new skills.

4.3 Use positive language and avoid negativity

Another surefire tip on how to explain gaps in employment is to maintain a positive outlook. When explaining an employment gap, it is essential that you keep a positive point of view and avoid negative language and tones. Instead, figure out how to explain gaps in employment with optimism. For example, instead of saying "I was let go from my previous job," a better alternative is saying "I took advantage of the opportunity to explore other career paths."

4.4 Emphasize self-improvement and development during the gap

If you engage in self-improvement and personal development activities during your employment gap, such as learning a new language or taking up a new hobby, make sure to emphasize them. This will show potential employers that you are proactive and dedicated to your personal growth.

4.5 Address the gap proactively in the cover letter and resume

It is usually best to tackle challenging topics head-on when you are figuring out how to explain gaps in employment. Therefore, it is an excellent idea to address the employment gap proactively in your cover letter and resume. While you may not go into so much detail in your resume, you should not consider writing a sentence or two about the reason for the gap and highlight relevant experiences you gained during that time.

5. Tips for Explaining Employment Gaps in Different Situations

5.1 Recent graduates or new entrants to the workforce

  • Highlight your education and relevant coursework, internships, or extracurricular activities.
  • Emphasize volunteer work or projects that demonstrate initiative and dedication.
  • Be honest about lack of work experience but focus on potential and willingness to learn.
  • Consider temporary or freelance work or internships to gain experience.

5.2 Job seekers with long-term employment gaps

  • Be honest about the reason for your gap, but focus on staying active and engaged during that time.
  • Include volunteer work, freelance work, or personal projects on your resume.
  • Use a functional resume format to highlight skills and achievements.
  • Be prepared to explain the reason for your employment gap positively during job interviews.

5.3 Individuals with multiple short-term employment gaps

  • Be honest about the reason for your gaps, but focus on what you learned and accomplished.
  • Group short-term jobs together and focus on skills gained.
  • Emphasize training or certifications earned during employment gaps.
  • Be prepared to explain the reason for gaps positively during job interviews.

5.4 Individuals with employment gaps due to incarceration

  • Be honest about past incarceration and demonstrate accountability and rehabilitation.
  • Emphasize skills and experiences gained during incarceration.
  • Highlight any education or vocational training completed during incarceration.
  • Be prepared to explain the incarceration positively during job interviews.

5.5 Individuals with employment gaps due to mental health issues

  • Be honest about the reason for employment gaps and the steps taken to address mental health.
  • Emphasize any volunteering or freelance work that was done during the gap period.
  • Highlight any courses or training programs that were completed to address mental health.
  • Be prepared to explain the gaps positively and proactively during job interviews.

6. Examples of How to Explain Employment Gaps

Examples-of-How-to-Explain-Employment-Gaps

6.1 Sample Cover Letter

Dear [Hiring Manager], I am writing to express my interest in the [Position] role at [Company]. While reviewing my resume, you may have noticed a gap in my employment history. I wanted to take a moment to address this and provide some context. In [month/year], I was unfortunately impacted by a company-wide layoff due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. During this time, I took the opportunity to reflect on my career goals and assess the skills and experiences that I could bring to a new role. Since then, I have been actively seeking new opportunities and networking within the industry. I have also taken the time to pursue professional development opportunities, including online courses and workshops, to enhance my skills and stay current with industry trends. I am eager to bring my skills and experience to [Company] and contribute to its mission. Thank you for considering my application. Sincerely, [Your Name]

6.2 Sample Resume

Work Experience: [Job Title], [Company Name], [Employment Dates]
  • [Job Duty/Responsibility]
  • [Job Duty/Responsibility]
  • [Job Duty/Responsibility]
Employment Gap: [Month/Year] - [Month/Year] Personal Reasons (health, family, education)
  • [Relevant Experience or Skill Development During Gap]

6.3 Sample Response During an Interview

“During the gap in my employment, I took some time off to focus on my health. I experienced a medical condition that required extensive treatment, but I am happy to say that I have fully recovered now and am ready to jump back into the workforce. I am excited to bring my renewed energy and commitment to my work and to be a valuable member of this team.” “I had an employment gap due to a company downsizing, which unfortunately impacted my role. While it was a challenging time, I used the opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate my career goals. During this time, I invested in my professional development by attending industry conferences, networking events, and taking online courses to expand my skill set. I also took on some freelance work to keep myself busy and gain additional experience. I'm now excited to bring my skills and experiences to this company and contribute to its growth and success.”

7. FAQs

  • What is the best answer for an employment gap?
There’s no one-answer-fits-all approach here. However, as a rule of thumb, it is important to be honest and transparent about the reason for the gap, while also highlighting any relevant experiences or skills gained during that time. Also, avoid being defensive and maintain a positive tone as you answer.
  • How do you explain the reason for the employment gap?
Be honest, use positive language and emphasize any efforts you made to stay active in your field during the gap.
  • How do I explain a gap in my CV?
First, you need to acknowledge the employment gap, then provide a brief explanation about why the gap exists. You can also highlight relevant experience or volunteering that you did during that time.
  • How to explain employment gaps due to Covid-19?
The world generally understands that the impact of Covid-19 was unprecedented and largely uncontrollable. So, employment gaps due to covid may be even more understandable. Stick to the basics of explaining an employment gap — be honest, positive, and highlight what you need to.
  • How to explain an employment gap after graduation?
Your explanation of an employment gap after graduation will depend on the reason for the gap. Common reasons include job search, further academic pursuit, traveling, and personal reasons. So, be upfront about whatever your specific reason may be.
  • How to explain gaps in employment for a stay-at-home mom?
Explaining gaps in employment for a stay-at-home mom can be challenging but be bold and honest when you address it. Also, don’t apologize for the gap and try to highlight transferable skills that you’ve gained during that time, such as multitasking, problem-solving, and time management.

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