How to Overcome Employment Gaps in a Resume

If you have employment gaps in your job history, your resume should address this in a straightforward manner. Don't lie to cover holes in your resume. In the work experience section, be truthful about what you were doing but describe it in a dignified, positive way. A few examples: independent study, foreign travel, or career renewal through study and assessment.

Many tips have been published on how to repair resume holes. The principles are simple:

  • Present the time gap as a positive event.

  • Detail why it made you a better worker — not a better person, but a better worker with more favorable characteristics, polished skills, and mature understanding, all of which you’re dying to contribute to your new employer.

Another method of papering-over glaring gaps is to include all your work under “Work History” and cite unpaid and volunteer work as well as paid jobs.

The chief mistake people make is assuming that a positive explanation won’t sell. Instead, they fudge dates from legitimate jobs to cover the black holes. You may get away with it in the beginning. But ultimately, you’ll be asked to sign a formal application — a legal document. When a company wishes to chop staff without paying severance benefits, the first thing that happens is an investigation of the company’s database of application forms. People who lied on their applications can be sent out into the mean streets with nothing but their current paychecks on their backs.

Suppose that you’ve been unemployed for the past year. That’s a new black hole. Some advisers suggest the old dodge of allowing the recruiter to misperceive the open-ended date of employment for your last job: “2008-” as though you meant “2008-Present.” The open-ender solution often works — until you run into a reader who thinks that it’s way too calculating. If you can’t find a positive explanation for a black hole, say nothing.

If you possess a not-so-pristine past, stick with small employers who probably won’t check every date on your resume.

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