What I learned as a hiring manager and from working with many other hiring managers and HR personnel might surprise you: Having a gap in your work history isn’t as big of a deal as you’d think. Here’s why, and how to address gaps in your resume.
Are you looking for a job but worried about a gap in your work history? What I discovered as a hiring manager and career coach might surprise you — having a gap on your resume makes little difference in obtaining an interview.
What matters more is how you explain a gap, be it in your resume, cover letter or at the job interview. This is especially true for the stay-at-home moms and dads who take time off from their careers to raise children, as most are worried about how that gap will be perceived by recruiters and hiring managers.
One of my clients, Amy (name changed), took time off to raise her two children. Once they were in elementary school, she decided to re-enter the workforce, but was feeling uncomfortable with how she should explain the almost seven-year gap in her resume. During this time, Amy stayed active with volunteer work and had even served as president of the parent-teacher-student association at her children’s school.
Instead of ignoring the time she spent at home on her resume, we maximized it by creating a Community Service section that explained this experience and the results she achieved. We also practiced how Amy would discuss her time away from work by focusing on the volunteer service projects she led. What surprised Amy the most was that, during job interviews, the gap turned out to be a non-issue.
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Even if you didn’t have time for volunteer work while you raised your children, there are still skills you learned or improved upon that are transferable to the workplace:
- Were your kids in sports or other activities? Then I bet you further developed your ability to prioritize and also improved your time-management skills.
- Were you in charge of your family’s budget and major household purchases? Budget creation and management are important business skills.
- Raising children also tests your negotiation abilities, improves your conflict-management skills, and, most likely, tested your communication skills on a daily basis.
This same process holds true for almost any gap in work history, such as being laid off due to downsizing or taking time out to care for sick relatives or elderly parents. Recruiters and hiring managers want to understand what you did during that time away and how you stayed connected to the business or industry.
So be sure to include applicable volunteer work, educational classes or seminars you attended, and any certifications you earned. Include skills you acquired and experience you obtained during your work gap to help demonstrate why you’re qualified for the job you’re seeking.