Resume Gaps – How to deal with them on your resume and in interview

My boss, Guy Pickrell, just published an article I thought I would share regarding resume gaps and how to deal with them - Enjoy!


It could be a sabbatical, a prolonged illness, a personal family issue or, increasingly common thanks to the downturn, you might have found yourself out of work for a while.  Inevitably, all of the aforementioned reasons will leave a glaring gap in your resume. A red flag like an angry boil, demanding attention and casting a shadow on an otherwise spotless resume. The bad news is, unlike a boil, you can’t cover it up or wait until it disappears.  This is a blemish that needs addressing. The good news is that any potential damage can be mitigated or completely avoided if the situation is handled correctly.

Firstly, make no mistake; you must be honest about it. Hiding, fibbing, changing dates – don’t do it, the truth will come out, and I have seen people fired for less. Having said that, the resume is no place for a life story – keep it short, keep it sweet and keep it accurate.

Regardless of the reason for the gap in your resume, the best way to handle it is to put yourself firmly in the shoes of the interviewer. This isn’t easy; rarely do we know the interviewer that well and here is where a good recruiter can help you out with some inside information. What you can assume is that your gap will be noticed and queried, so be ready, remain up-beat and deal with it concisely. Here are the most common reasons for resume gaps and how to spin the negative into a positive:

  1. Sabbatical - In the case of a sabbatical, I’m guessing you were aware that taking 6 months off to tour Africa or write your memoirs was always going to leave you with an employment gap. As a choice, this is generally much easier to explain, and to some extent, can easily be seen as a positive. It is fair to assume that any potential employer is going to want to feel confident that the need for another sabbatical is not looming and that you are committed to a full time, permanent role. If you plan on taking a sabbatical make sure you leave your current role with excellent references and where possible, have your current manager write a reference before you leave.
  2. Family Issues  - In the case of illness or family issues it is important to keep the explanation brief and simple, the details are not so important. Focus on impressing your potential employer that this was a one off occurrence. His concerns aren’t going to be why, but why won’t it happen again.  Most interviewers are unlikely to pry too far. Offer a concise explanation and nothing more or less.
  3. Unemployment - Perhaps more thorny is finding yourself explaining a gap due to unemployment.  This is especially true in a hot market; of course this affliction is much more common in a down market, such as the one we find ourselves in now. Strategies to keep this period of unemployment as short as possible are important. Try to be open-minded about salary and contract work. I would argue it is better to step out of your industry than to be unemployed for more than a month or two. Consider signing up for training and turn the gap into a positive discussion point. Most importantly are the reasons why you were let go. Assuming it wasn’t for cause, a good reference makes all the difference – get it BEFORE you leave. If it was a lay off, think about how to explain how a candidate of your brilliance was ever let go.

No matter the reason for the resume gap, remember one thing – do not go into lengthy explanation in interview or on paper. Have a story, look him in the eye, be concise, answer the question and move on.


~Guy Pickrell

NationStaff Inc.

This article was orgianlly published here on

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