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How Do You Explain Job Gaps to Recruiters?

Family reasons. Health issues. Getting laid off. Traveling. Learning new skills. Taking a sabbatical. There are lots of possible reasons why you might spend some time out of work. However, when it comes to updating your resume, either by writing it yourself or with the help of professional resume editing services, you may worry about how you’re going to explain that gap between jobs.

Fortunately, there’s usually no need to fret. While recruiters are often eager to learn about the reasons behind job gaps on your resume, they’ll usually be quite understanding. Plus, there are plenty of ways to explain the situation in a positive way. This guide will explore exactly how to explain job gaps in your future interviews.

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The Reality of Job Gaps

Before we dig into the details of how to talk about job gaps, let’s look at some stats. Reports show that close to 70% of workers in the U.S. today have experienced a gap in their employment. In other words, it’s much more common than you might think. So, you shouldn’t feel like it puts you at a special disadvantage or that you’re the only applicant with a gap on their resume.

The Best Ways to Explain Job Gaps

Discussing job gaps doesn’t need to be difficult. If you take the right approach, you can even frame a gap in a positive light, using it to support your application and demonstrate useful skills or characteristics. Here are some smart strategies to keep in mind.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

First, be honest. The worst thing to do in these kinds of situations is to lie or make up stories. You don’t want to begin a new working relationship with lies. It’s much better and braver to address your job gaps head on and be up-front with your prospective employer about what happened.

Remember, as explained above, you won’t be the only one with a gap on their resume. In fact, if we follow the statistics, most of the other applicants will also have a gap in their employment at some stage, too. So don’t worry about what the recruiter might think or stress that a job gap will ruin your chances of getting the role.

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Focus on the Positives

When explaining any kind of job gap to a recruiter, it’s best to focus on the positives. That might seem tricky to do at first, but there are lots of ways in which you can spin a job gap into a positive experience. It all depends on what your specific reasons were for taking time out of work in the first place. Here are some examples:

  • Education: If you took time off work to pursue education, it’s easy to sell this to recruiters as a positive experience. You can talk about how you wanted to seek self-improvement and learn skills to take your career to the next level, rather than stagnating at the same level.

  • Family: Perhaps you had to take time out of work to help with family matters, such as caring for a relative. Again, it’s easy to highlight the positives. It shows that you’re someone who is selfless and kindhearted, which can be valuable traits in the working world too.

  • Travel: Maybe you used some time to travel. In that case, you could talk about how the experience broadened your horizons. You could also mention skills you picked up on the way, like budgeting, planning, and problem-solving.

  • Job-hunting: Of course, you might also have spent a job gap looking for work, failing to find the right role immediately. This can also be spun in a positive light, as it shows you were willing to bide your time and wait to find a role you truly wanted.

  • Laid-off: Even if you got laid off from a job, you can still turn that into a positive experience. You can discuss how you used that opportunity to reflect on your career and think about what you really wanted, taking time to learn skills or reassess before diving back into work.

Use Your Cover Letter to Address Gaps

You might be wondering about the best place to address career gaps with a recruiter between your resume and your cover letter. Well, given that it’s usually best to keep resumes as brief as possible, you may not want to waste any space writing about gaps in your career. Instead, the cover letter is usually the better document to choose.

In your cover letter, you can provide a full overview of your career up to that point, focusing on your most recent experiences. If there are any recent gaps, you can also address them in the letter, explaining why you took time out of work. This is also a great place to highlight the benefits of your job gap or discuss how it makes you an even better candidate for the role in question.

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Don’t Worry About Gaps from Several Years Ago

It’s important to note that you don’t have to address every single job gap in your life. With older gaps, recruiters generally won’t be as interested or concerned. They may not even ask about them at all, even in the interview stage. So, if you’ve got a gap from 10 or more years ago, followed by a very consistent period of employment, don’t worry about it too much.

Take a Positive Approach to Career Gaps

The big takeaway from this guide is simply to be positive about any gaps in your career. You can’t magically make them disappear, but you can frame almost any gap in a positive light. Even in the worst scenario – like if you got fired and then couldn't find a job for a couple months or even years – can be spun around in your favor by focusing on how you grew and learned in the hard times.

Don’t see a gap as a bad thing since most employees have them. Find a way to use job gaps to your advantage. Remember to keep your resume regularly updated, addressing gaps and highlighting your skills. If you’re not sure quite how to do this, the best executive resume and LinkedIn profile writing services in Denver can help you.

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