Check out examples of ways you can explain the time away from work in your cover letter.

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Having a gap in your work history isn’t as big a deal as most people would think. But if you think you won’t get called for an interview if you don’t explain the gap in your cover letter, then here are a few examples to use as guides:

Returning to work after staying home with children. “As you will see from my enclosed resume, I have a master’s degree in education and spent eight years as a third-grade teacher in the XYZ School District. After taking a six-year leave from teaching to raise our children, I went back to work last year as a substitute teacher. I am excited to pursue this full-time teaching job in …”

Obtaining a job after a layoff. “After five years working as a business analyst for ABC Company, my position was eliminated due to corporate downsizing. After the layoff, I used my time away from work to obtain my CPA certification and took classes to increase my computer skills. My goal is to use my experience as an analyst and the knowledge I gained through my CPA program to obtain the position of TBD in the accounting and finance department at …”

Obtaining a job after taking time off for college. “With seven years of experience in marketing, I took time out of my career to go back to school full time and complete my MBA in marketing at the University of XXX. While in school, I worked as a paid intern for two companies in the area of product management — and ended up finding my career passion. I hope to be able to use the knowledge and skills I’ve learned by applying them to the newly created position of Product Manager, XYZ product line, for Acme, Inc. …”

Remember, while employment gaps might have been seen as unusual in the past, they are now fairly common (especially due to the recession and downsizing layoffs). What matters more is how you explain the gap.

Think through the best ways to address any work gaps, especially in your customized cover letters. Then show up at job interviews prepared to discuss what you did and what you accomplished during your time away from work.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at