4 tips for explaining gaps in your resume

Resumes & cover letters  

Resume , Resume gaps

Need some strategies to feel more confident when talking about gaps in your resume? Recruiter Nathalie Lynton shows you how to tackle it with aplomb.

However, Nathalie says these events are a normal part of life and employers understand this. “Don’t be ashamed by what’s happened in your life, or your choices. Let’s face it - no one’s life goes smoothly or revolves solely around our careers.”Applying for jobs with a gap in your resume can be a daunting proposition. Whether it’s a year spent travelling Europe, a few months off to help with a family member, or even taking some time out to deal with your own health; non-career related down time makes many a job seeker feel less competitive.

  1. Prepare yourself
    Give some thought to your time out from working – how long it was, did you pick up any skills relevant to the job you’re going for, and how much information will be too much? While honesty is the best policy, three months off might not warrant a mention.

    A longer gap may be better pre-emptively explained if you believe it will leave lingering questions about your suitability if unaddressed, though Nathalie urges applicants not think of this as a negative thing. She recommends preparing for any potentially awkward questions by mock interviewing with a friend or family member until you’re confident and concise in your responses.  

  2. Don’t overthink it
    Nathalie says it’s important not to overthink how much your ‘gap’ matters. “My main concern as an employer is can you do the job now, not ‘why were you not working for three, or even 12 months?” Nathalie says.

    It’s also vital to remember they are looking to hire staff, not become your BFF.  “There is a confessional type of honesty, and there is the best foot forward, professional approach. The best foot forward is always the way to go.”

    If, for example, you took a year off to see the world, Nathalie says it’s fine to leave it at ‘just for my personal development’, unless you’ve picked up some relevant skills through the process that you’d like to share. Even then, the personal details of your trip are not necessary or appreciated. “Stick to ‘I travelled Europe for a year, which has allowed me to develop my problem-solving skills, ability to self-motivate and self-confidence.”
  3. Bring the emphasis back to why you’re the best candidate for the job
    Even If your time off was personal and not for general consumption – and the benefits to your career minimal to non-existent, Nathalie says it’s perfectly acceptable to leave it at ‘personal, family or health reasons,’ then move the conversation back to why you’re the best candidate for the job.

    “I would just say that during this time I was able to reflect on my personal aspirations, and it galvanized what was a priority for me and what my lifetime and career goals are. Also mention any training or industry relevant events you attended during your down time. Then link back to the role, and why this opportunity and company stands out for you, and why there is such alignment,” she says.
  4. Check your body language and tone
    If, during an interview, you sound nervous or your body language is defeated or slumped, this may raise a red flag that the reason for your time out will affect your ability to do your job. Instead, maintain eye contact, a confident, self-assured and open expression and then gently guide the focus back to the reason you’re there – to prove your suitability for the job.