How to explain a gap in your resumé

How to explain a gap in your resumé

If you’ve ever gone through a period of not working, you’re not alone. Whether it’s through travelling, study or simply hunting for a job over an extended period, time away from the workforce can be a reality – and it may mean your resumé needs modifying.

Well, fear not, because it’s an issue that can be fixed. To give you more insight on how to make your resumé desirable, recruitment consultant Belinda McIvor and career advisor Gillian Barber share their tips on what to include.

Highlight the reasons behind the gap

As a recruitment consultant, Belinda often deals with resumés that have obvious omissions of information. She believes explaining these gaps is crucial in order for employers to have a better understanding of what you’ve been doing. Otherwise, you open up the possibility that your resumé will be perceived unfavourably.

As part of her role for Unitemps at La Trobe University – a recruitment agency designed to assist students and recent graduates – Belinda helps students and recent graduates find suitable employers. She looks through hundreds of resumés and cover letters in order to find candidates the ideal job.

Through her experiences, Belinda has found common explanations for noticeable gaps.

“It’s usually people who have been working for a while, and they’ve taken some time off to go and study – and then they haven’t worked while they’ve been studying,” Belinda says.

I’ve also found that people don’t always put everything on their resumé, because maybe they don’t think it’s relevant to that particular job when, really, it closes the gap.

Belinda advises applicants with noticeable gaps in their resumés to be honest about what they’ve been doing, in order to give prospective employers more clarity on their specific situations.

“If it’s a significant gap, then it’s important to explain what you’ve been doing. Even if it’s just one sentence on the cover letter explaining it – which sometimes is the case.”

There’s always a good reason for the gap in your resumé, so be honest with employers.

Engage in activities that enhance your employability

For Gillian, who works as a careers advisor at Career Ready, being proactive during your career break is essential. Keeping yourself occupied with useful activities not only reduces the risk of visible gaps, but also improves your soft skills.

“It’s important to be engaged in a variety of activities that will develop your employability. While you’re studying, work part-time, participate in clubs and societies, volunteer, or complete an internship,” Gillian says.

“When you graduate, try to maintain some of these activities. You’ll have a broad range of skills and experiences to put on your resumé. And hopefully, you won’t have to deal with gaps – because you’ve increased your employability and built a network to tell you about opportunities in the hidden job market!”

Gillian believes that without this sort of array of activities to fall back on, you’ll find it harder to explain any possible resume gaps.

Prepare to talk about the gap during job interviews

Even though you’ve addressed the gap in your job application, questions about it may still come up during your job interview. It’s important to have a strategy in place for how you’ll respond.

Practise what you’ll say about the gap ahead of time – identify how the things you’ve done while not working specifically relate to the job you’re going for. Maybe volunteering has built your relationship building skills, which you’ll apply each day in your new role? Or perhaps you’ve honed your business acumen through a committee role at a university club? Above all, remember to be confident – resumé gaps aren’t uncommon and the reason for your career break is valid.

Think about how different activities outside work have given you job-relevant skills.

Seek help from Career Ready and Unitemps staff

Career Ready and Unitemps are invaluable resources to use if you’re struggling with your resumé and need further support. Unitemps can help you find flexible jobs that match your skillset, and Career Ready can help you apply. There’s a drop-in space for both at La Trobe’s Bundoora campus, or you can make appointments for other campuses online.

“If you’re a student with a gap or any concern with your resumé, it’s important to speak to a careers staff member. Everyone’s situation is different, so we tailor our advice to your particular circumstances,” Gillian says.

So no matter how big the gap in your resumé, there’s a way to fill it. With an honest approach and the right information, you can turn time away from work into a career win.

Learn more about the Career Ready events La Trobe offers students.