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Dealing With Employment Gaps

The Right Format Emphasizes Your Strengths

Employment gaps don't have to be a negative component of your resume if you use the right functional resume format or combination resume format.

Plan your career change or development with our practical tips

If you've ever been laid off and had trouble finding another job or if you took years off after the birth of a child, you know that gaps in your employment history like these can play havoc with your resume.

A few missing years can come back to haunt you when it comes time to re-enter the workforce. But this challenge can be faced & overcome. You just need to figure out how to tactfully and accurately address such an employment gap in your resume and cover letter.

Some Common Reasons for Gaps

Having a baby is one reason for employment gaps
  • Taking time off to have a baby or raise a family

  • Going back to school for more education or technical training

  • Serving in the military

  • Recovering from a traumatic accident or illness

  • Caring for an elderly parent or sick child for an extended length of time

  • Mental or emotional illness

  • Prison time

Obviously, some of these reasons will be viewed more favorably than others. Regardless, though, the prospective employer is going to have concerns about lost skills, forgotten knowledge or lack of commitment when you are ready to return to the workforce.

But whatever the reason for employment gaps, it's important to choose the right resume format when you get ready to update your resume.

Minimize Gaps with the Right Resume Format

A functional resume format or a combination resume format will probably be your best choice because both format emphasize skills and experience over a chronological job history.

Writing the Resume

Writing your resume is hard
  • Start your resume with a brief "Summary of Qualifications," which is a 3 to 8 sentence overview of skills and areas of experience.

  • Next, include a section entitled "Areas of Strength" or "Skills Summary," which lists keywords appropriate to your professional experience.

  • Next, you'll list your "Professional Experience," with employers, titles, and job responsibilities. Do not omit the dates or you will end up raising more questions than necessary.

  • While you've been unemployed, you may have gained additional experience and skills, which can be included on your resume within a section called "Additional Experience." For example...

    • Did you serve as Treasurer for a civic or nonprofit group?
    • Were you an unpaid tour guide in the local museum or tourist spot?
    • Did you direct or plan activities as a volunteer for an after-school or day care center?
    • Were you a sports coach or Scoutmaster on the weekends or during the evenings?

    List any experience like these with dates and responsibilities, and then end the resume with your "Education" section.

This is the way you deal effectively with employment gaps!

I highly recommend this resource for building powerful resumes!

Resume Templates Help You Get Started

You can find templates for both functional resume formats and combination resume formats here:

Sample Resume Templates

You may also want to mention any gaps during your employment history in your cover letter that goes with the resume. Cover letters give you the ability to present your intentions and qualifications to a recruiter in a concise, appealing format.

Take time to create a resume and cover letter that accurately present your skills and experiences (despite employment gaps), and your efforts will surely be rewarded!

Learn More About Writing a Resume

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If you have resume questions, Ask the Expert has answers...

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