Does a gap on your resume matter?

Don’t worry if you have a gap on your resume—it’s all about how you explain your experience.

Does a gap on your resume matter?

A gap on your resume shouldn't stop you from applying for a new job

For many people, having a resume gap has a negative connotation. But there are dozens of reasons why you might have a resume gap, and good news, if you know how to explain it well it won’t hinder your job search.

Whether you just graduated into a down jobs market, got laid off or furloughed, took time off to raise kids or take care of a family member, started a job you hated and quit without another job lined up, traveled the world, or something else entirely, it is all about how you explain your experience that's going get the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager. Here are three ways to explain a gap on your resume that'll impress a hiring manager in your next interview. 

Be proactive

If you worked at all or volunteered during the gap, include it on your resume. Demonstrate how you stayed active and learned some new skills. Did you pick up freelance work, take a part-time job, volunteer, start your own business, or work on a passion project? Include it in your resume and cover letter. (If you freelanced and had multiple clients or projects, you can group it together under a catch-all like freelance web developer.) Just like with the full-time jobs on your resume, don’t just list your responsibilities—show what you accomplished. If you went back to school, took one-off classes to learn new skills, or completed certification programs, add it to the education section on your resume along with the dates. 

Be positive

When you're preparing for your job interview by practicing your answers to the most common job interview questions and researching the company, think about how you’ll explain the gap on your resume and how you’ll talk about your career path. Focus on how your experience contributed to your professional development. The interview is your best chance to demonstrate the value you bring to the company, so don't let a gap on your resume interfere with telling your story. Shift the focus away from a gap in work to what you learned and accomplished and the transferable skills that will make you a great hire for this job. 

Be honest

There is just one thing you definitely don’t want to do in your resume and cover letter or in a job interview —lie. Don’t change the dates of employment so it looks like you're still working at the company or shift them so it seems like you have a shorter gap. Employers can verify your career history and chances are you won’t get the job offer or, if you do, you could get fired for lying on your resume. Honesty is always the best policy.

If someone asks why you left your job, be honest without talking badly about your previous employer or boss. If you were laid off, explain that the company had budget cuts or restructured and that you were let go. Keep it positive and say that you enjoyed your time at the company, learned skills, and that you are proud of what you accomplished. Transition by tying what you learned and accomplished into why you would be great for the job at hand. If you quit your job without having another lined up, similarly stay positive, explain what you learned and achieved, what you are looking for in your next job and role, and why that led you to apply to this job! If you left to be a stay at home parent, take care of a family member, were sick, or even quit to travel the world, you can simply say that without diving into details.

There are so many reasons that someone’s career trajectory might have a gap of a few months or a few years—a good employer should be focused on the here and now. After all, the most important thing should be the value you’ll bring to the company now.

Be prepared

And if you are still searching for your new gig, join Monster today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your cover letter and resume—each tailored to different types of jobs that interest you. Get job alerts sent directly to your inbox so you can apply as soon as jobs that interest you become available. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you.