So you took a break. Pursued your dream of backpacking across Europe. Raised a baby. Got laid off. Moved to a new state. Took some “you” time. Whatever the reason, many people have gaps on their resumes at one point in their employment histories, and when it comes time for us to dust those resumes off for an interview, we undoubtedly will have to explain those little hiatuses. Gaps in your resume are something that resume sourcers are trained to spot and inquire about, but it does not mean an automatic rejection. If you took a year off to go on a mission trip in South America and if you took a year off to conquer Call of Duty in your parents’ basement are two entirely different things, and employers just want to ensure it’s not the latter.
So how do you respond when a potential employer points out that little black hole on your resume? Kathryn Vercillo wrote an article on the Do’s and Don’ts of explaining employment history gaps. Do you agree with her advice? Have anything to add?
- Tell the exact truth if it can harm you. If you were unemployed because no one would hire you, you were dealing drugs or you preferred welfare to working, that’s fine. But it’s not what you want to tell someone that’s going to hire you.
- Flat out lie. While you’re going to need to embellish the truth or fib a little here and there, you don’t want to flat out lie, especially with some sort of extravagant lie that that’s not going to be believable or verifiable.
- Make excuses. You need to sound confident in any interview so don’t make excuses for those gaps. Simply explaining them clearly and logically in a way that no one could argue with.
- Avoid the issue. This will make you look suspicious when really you’re probably just insecure about it.
- Be clear about what you were doing during the time of unemployment.
- Think of something that you learned during this period and focus on how it will help the new business. For example, say that you spent those months surfing the web. Perhaps you learned to blog and gained insight into social networking. That can be a great skill for employers so instead of saying that you hung out online, stress that you spent that time doing an independent study of blogging and social networking that you can use in your new position once you’re hired.
- Describe the benefits of your period of unemployment. If you spent the time traveling, explain how you were exposed to diversity in a way that gave you a better understanding of how to work with clients from different backgrounds. If you were ill, explain your newfound appreciation of how great it is to be healthy enough to work.
- Sound genuine. It can sound insincere when you’re boasting about your experiences and the way they help a business. Make an effort to sound sincere..
- Use the word sabbatical. This makes your time off of work sound important.
It’s getting increasingly common for people to take time to themselves that leaves gaps in their resume. Don’t apologize for them or sell yourself short. Figure out how those gaps benefited you and how they can benefit the company that you want to work for. Explain that clearly enough in an interviewand the gaps won’t matter much at all.