How to Explain Gaps on a Resume

Dear Aegistech,
I’ve got some gaps on my resume. What is the best way to explain them? — Steve from Stamford 

Dear Steve,
Resume gaps happen — especially over the last few years. They may or may not be a big deal depending on how many there are, how long they lasted and how you spent that time. Here are some tips on how to handle and explain your extra time off:

Be open and honest. Don’t try to hide anything about when you were and weren’t working. Misrepresenting when you were employed will only cause headaches later on as background and reference checks are done. Even if you only ended last week, don’t write you’re presently employed.

Clients like to know why you’ve left different roles, especially for permanent positions. Explain your history to your recruiter. We work directly with hiring managers and can tell them about reasons for gaps upfront so they’re not surprised later.

Show you’ve kept up your technical skills. Who’s more likely to get hired: The candidate who picked up a part-time independent consulting project and earned a new certification while not working, or the candidate who just kept sending out resumes?

Almost every time, it’s the candidate who can show they kept expanding their knowledge that gets the job.

This is especially true as gaps begin to get longer. No one will question a month or two out of work here and there during a long career, but if you’ve been looking for longer than that find a relevant project to keep up your skills, include on your resume and speak about in an interview.

Don’t make excuses. Everyone knows the job market’s been rough since 2008. No need to blame your former firm for collapsing or badmouth your boss for not warning you about an impending layoff. Explain what happened truthfully without making anyone look bad.

If you did something awesome, include it. The Java developer who wrote, “Left previous position for world travel” piqued my interest and got a phone call. If you took six months off to climb Mt. Everest or row across the Atlantic, let us know.