When potential employers look at your resume, they will pay attention to any gaps in employment, i.e., long time spans in which you were not working or patterns of leaving a job shortly after onboarding. If you have gaps in your work history, it is not necessarily the end of the world. You should, however, be aware of what those gaps communicate about you to employers and how you should explain them on the application or during the interview.
Why Employment Gaps Are Not Necessarily a Bad Thing
"Why take a gap year," you may be wondering to yourself if you are a recent high school or college graduate, "if future employers are going to penalize me for it?" You should understand, first of all, that employers are likely to look at a gap between the end of your education and the beginning of your work history differently than at one in the middle of your career. This is especially true if you can list the experience that you gained during your gap year under another section of your resume so they can see what you did and how it helps qualify you for the position.
Employers may look differently at long gaps between jobs, but these can still be to your advantage rather than your disadvantage. If you left a job to pursue additional education and training, this can work in your favor. Even leaving the workforce to care for children and family can help to qualify you rather than disqualify you because you likely practiced useful skills related to budgeting and management.
How Employment Gaps May Look To Employers
If you have one long gap in your employment history, or a lot of little gaps, a prospective employer may have concerns, especially if you are not able to explain them in another section of your resume. It may imply to an employer that you are unreliable and will leave at the first opportunity, forcing them to go through the hiring process all over again.
However, employers understand that life happens and that there are sometimes good reasons for gaps in your employment history. Most will give you the opportunity to explain any gaps or short stints on your resume. The trick is to explain these in a way that will quiet any doubts the prospective employer may have about your dedication and dependability.
What To Say When Explaining Employment Gaps
The best policy is to be honest about any gaps in your employment history. Do not try to conceal them from your employer, and certainly never try to falsify your resume to disguise the gaps. If the employer is doing his or her due diligence, he or she will discover the deception, and the hiring process will probably stop right there. It is better to be proactive in addressing any employment gaps because it is better to hear the explanation from you than from former employers.
Many times, as long as you have a concrete reason for your employment gaps, e.g., you went back to school, had a personal illness, or had to care for an ailing loved one, etc., your employer will accept it. He or she may try to verify it objectively, but as long as you tell the truth, you should have nothing to fear from this. However, if you cannot produce a specific reason for your employment gaps, it is more likely to fuel the employer's doubts rather than quelling them.
While you should be honest about your employment gaps, you should also try to explain them in a way that is positive. For example, say an employment gap occurred because you were incarcerated or in drug treatment. While not automatic disqualifications, they may make the employer hesitant to hire you. You can improve your prospects by talking about what you learned during your rehabilitation or how long you have remained sober. This may make an employer more willing to give you a chance.
Employers have a legal obligation to give every candidate a fair opportunity. Therefore, they will make an effort to evaluate your entire application carefully, including gaps in your employment history.