Career Advice

A Complete Guide to Explaining Employment Gaps

You could occasionally discover that your resume has an employment gap that you’d like to explain. Potential employers could be curious about these employment gaps and wonder why you weren’t working during them. Understanding how to handle employment gaps can assist you with your job hunt by showing hiring managers that you were actively involved in other productive activities or had a good excuse for being unemployed. This article demonstrates how to address employment gaps in your resume and offers examples of possible causes.

What is an employment gap?

Employment gaps refer to periods in a person’s work history where they were not employed or were not engaged in full-time, continuous work. These gaps can vary in duration and can occur for a wide range of reasons. Some common reasons for employment gaps include:

  1. Unemployment: A person may be actively seeking employment but has not yet found a new job. This can be due to various factors, including economic downturns, industry-specific challenges, or personal circumstances.
  2. Career Changes: Some individuals take time off to transition into a new career or industry. This may involve acquiring new skills, additional education, or gaining experience in a new field.
  3. Travel: Extended travel or sabbaticals can result in employment gaps. People take time off to explore the world, volunteer, or engage in cultural experiences.
  4. Personal Reasons: Employment gaps can occur due to personal reasons such as family responsibilities, including caring for children or elderly family members. Health issues, either one’s own or a family member’s, can also necessitate time off work.
  5. Education: Pursuing further education, whether a degree, certification, or training program, can lead to temporary employment gaps.
  6. Layoffs and Job Loss: Involuntary job loss or layoffs can result in employment gaps as individuals seek new opportunities.
  7. Freelancing or Part-Time Work: Some individuals engage in freelancing, consulting, or part-time work, resulting in employment gaps in traditional full-time roles.

It’s important to note that employment gaps are not necessarily negative, and they don’t automatically raise red flags with employers. How employment gaps are perceived can depend on how they are explained and framed by the job seeker. In some cases, the activities and experiences during the gap can be seen as valuable, such as acquiring new skills, volunteering, or exploring entrepreneurial ventures. The key is to be honest and transparent about the reasons for the gap and to demonstrate how the experiences during the gap can benefit a potential employer.

How to describe employment gaps

In some cases, you might not feel confident disclosing the causes of any gaps. This could be the situation if you were laid off unexpectedly. You can think that there is nothing worthwhile or constructive to discuss. In either case, it’s better to be truthful with a prospective employer, so refrain from making up your employment history. Additionally, it’s crucial to avoid including erroneous information or dates. There are several ways to indicate short gaps on your resume that may assist you in avoiding the problem if you’re confused about what to do:

1. Select a format that hides brief employment gaps.

It may be simple enough to conceal this on your resume if you have just been without work for short periods of time. This is especially true if you have a lengthy job history because you can keep specifics on earlier or more historical jobs to a minimum. There are a few ways to accomplish this, such as grouping several jobs together or only displaying dates in years.

2. Compile a group of jobs.

You might be able to explain these as “different jobs” in a certain field if you’ve been employed in sales or the hospitality business. Try putting them in a structure like “2017-2020: Different jobs in hospitality at restaurants and hotels in Wolverhampton,” especially if they are your first positions in your profession. List the primary duties that were shared by these positions as well. It is not required to mention that you were unemployed for periods over those years. If you have had consistent employment in the intervening years, this approach is especially helpful.

3. Only include employment years

When providing specifics on your CV, you can just utilize the years of your career if there are only a few months between jobs. You can mark the first work as finished in 2019 and the second as beginning in 2019, for instance, if you concluded one job in April 2019 but didn’t begin the next until August 2019. Consider using this format to describe any temporary positions that are particularly relevant to your abilities and experience.

4. Describe how it led you to choose a different career path.

The reviewer will better comprehend your interest in the position they are offering if you can explain how you decided to follow a different professional path. Some people may view this as a thrilling chance to experiment with something different or to explore a passion they have always wished for. If this applies to you, be sure to mention it in your responses.

An employer would benefit from knowing how enthusiastic you are about the opportunities they are providing. If you’ve worked in one area for a while and then applied for a position to train somewhere else, it could appear a little strange on your resume. Explain how leaving your former job helped you realize the career route you should pursue.

5. Discuss your thorough preparation and research.

If you want to stay in the same field, you may mention how your time between positions has allowed you to learn about the finest opportunities available. Describe how you concluded that this specific position is everything you’ve been looking for. Spend as much time as possible thoroughly researching the organization. This enables you to appear well-prepared for interviews. Knowing more information about the organization will make it simpler for you to discuss your employment gaps in a manner that will impress potential employers.

Acceptable explanations for an employment gap

Your employment hiatus may occasionally have a specific cause that is acceptable to discuss with an interviewer. They will be able to comprehend your employment timeline if you discuss your employment gap and the lessons you have gained from it. Consider summarizing the situation and stating why your position makes the gap necessary. Here is a list of legitimate explanations for an employment gap, along with information on how to handle or justify each one:

Taking care of another person

There may be occasions when working hours are taken off to care for a sick parent or a young child. You don’t need to go into extensive detail about these gaps on your resume. You can either address it in your statement or in an interview. Don’t feel as though you have to explain the details if an interviewer asks you about these times, but it can make you appear more approachable if you’re willing to at least briefly discuss it.

You could discuss the duties you undertook, such as dispensing regular medicine or going to medical appointments. It could also involve handling legal and personal concerns. Understanding why you choose to return to work is useful information for an interviewer. The more clearly you can elucidate this, the better. For instance, instead of declaring that you wish to return to work so that you may make enough money to provide for your family, mention how much you have loved caring for your kids but are eager to resume having a rewarding and challenging career.

Discussing volunteer time

Young people frequently choose to volunteer for a year in a developing nation. They may do this while taking a gap year before leaving full-time education and starting their careers. It has also grown in popularity as a possibility for those seeking a mid-career vacation. One effective way to include volunteer work is to include it on your resume along with other employment experiences.

Indicate that the job was unpaid to avoid any misunderstandings, but also list the duties and abilities you acquired. Make an effort to make them as pertinent to the industry you want to enter as you can. You can still extract transferrable abilities from your volunteer work even if there isn’t a clear or strong connection to the career you’re currently considering. Teamwork, planning, time management, and money management are some examples of this. All of these abilities apply to paid work when they are successfully articulated.

Speaking of the period of travel

There are some skills you’ll be able to develop from your travel experiences, much like volunteering. Avoid simply listing every location you’ve visited because this could come across as boastful. Include any languages you have learned, any voluntary work or unpaid job you have done, as well as any practical abilities like time management and money management. It’s crucial to think about how you would respond to this in an interview.

The idea that you took some time traveling because you were not┬áprepared to settle down is not something that employers would like to hear. Instead, make an effort to phrase it more eloquently. Mention your desire to see various cultures, meet new people, and acquire new languages. Bring everything you’ve learned while traveling together to demonstrate how it has helped you become a more confident and capable person with a deeper knowledge of other cultures. If you can demonstrate how these talents would be advantageous in their particular profession, it would be quite helpful.

Laid Off or Company Downsizing

If you were laid off or experienced job loss due to a company downsizing, this is a widely understood reason for a gap.

Time off for medical reasons

There are some situations where taking some time off is permissible; however, this can result in a gap in work. An appropriate justification would be, for instance, if a doctor recommended you take a lengthy leave of absence from work for health-related reasons. Usually, you won’t be required to provide much information about your medical history. You can only say that the absence was brought on by medical issues and that you are now healthy and eager to resume your job.


In conclusion, explaining employment gaps is a common concern for job seekers, but it doesn’t have to be a stumbling block in your career journey. This complete guide has provided you with valuable insights and strategies for addressing employment gaps with confidence. Remember that honesty, transparency, and the ability to highlight the skills and experiences gained during those gaps are your allies.

Embrace the opportunity to showcase your adaptability and determination to potential employers. By understanding the best practices outlined here, you can navigate employment gaps successfully and demonstrate your readiness to excel in your chosen profession. Your career path may have had detours, but those detours can lead to new opportunities for growth and success.

Frequently Asked Questions about employment gaps

  • How would you give examples of employment gaps?

Writing down the precise time you were unemployed and labeling it as a “planned professional sabbatical” is the easiest method to justify such an employment gap. You can give a brief justification for taking it in the sentence or words below (for instance, I took two years off from work to care for my developing children, who are now attending primary school).

  • How long is an acceptable employment gap?

Three or four months between jobs are typically not seen as an employment gap but instead as a period of job hunting. Stretch out that time to nine or ten months, though, and the majority of companies would view that as a true employment gap.

  • What is the ideal response to employment gaps?

Describe the circumstances that led to the employment gap.

Sharing the good things that occurred when you were unemployed and the lessons you took away from the challenging times reveals a lot concerning your outlook and character. Your response can indicate that you’re a perfect fit for the organization or position. Be confident.

  • How long of an employment gap is too long?

The acceptability of an employment gap’s duration can vary depending on the industry, the specific job, and the reason for the gap. In general, employment gaps of a few months to a year are often viewed as less concerning, while gaps exceeding a year may raise more questions. However, it’s essential to remember that the explanation and context of the gap matter more than the duration.

  • Do employment gaps affect one’s chances of getting hired?

Employment gaps, on their own, do not necessarily disqualify a candidate. What matters most is how the job seeker explains and frames the gap. A well-structured explanation that demonstrates personal growth, skill development, or active job searching can mitigate any concerns an employer might have. Employers are often more interested in a candidate’s qualifications and fit for the job than the existence of a gap.

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