How to Address a Career Gap on Your Resume

By Ida Pettersson

The unemployment rate in the US at the beginning of 2022 was 6.3 percent, as compared to 3.5 percent in 2019, and research conducted during the pandemic shows that working women were disproportionately affected by it. 

In addition to being more inclined than their male counterparts to take breaks in their careers to focus on childcare after schools and daycares closed, women are overrepresented in the kind of low-wage jobs that were hit the hardest by the global crisis.

If you’re among the thousands of women now looking to re-enter the workforce in the wake of the pandemic, you’ll need to know how to address that employment gap on your resume. 

Below are five tips on how to convince employers that you’re ready to return to work.

Highlight relevant experience you gained while unemployed

To make a career gap less apparent, fill it with other relevant experience. For example, if you took an online course related to the position you want while you were a full-time mom or caring for an elderly family member, include it on your resume. 

Likewise, if you volunteered for a local charity during your career break, you should mention that too. Including volunteer work, personal projects, coursework and other experience on your resume is a great way to demonstrate transferable skills.

While recent relevant work experience and technical skills are important factors hiring managers look at when screening candidates, showing that you’ll be a well-rounded employee can help you stand out among applicants with similar qualifications.

Opt for a functional resume format

The chronological resume is the most common resume format and suits most job applicants, but as someone with an employment gap, you should consider writing a functional resume instead.

A functional resume emphasizes your relevant skills by breaking your experience down into skill-related categories instead of each job you held and when you held it. This approach gives you the chance to go into detail about how you’ve applied and fine-tuned your skills in past positions.

Omit months from your work experience section

You’ll likely still need to discuss your employment gap at some point during the hiring process, but an effective way to reduce the noticeability of shorter career gaps on your resume is by leaving out months when you list your professional experience. For example, instead of writing:

  • CapRock Partners, Financial Analyst | October 2019 – January 2022

Try writing it this way:

  • CapRock Partners, Financial Analyst | 2019 – 2022

A hiring manager looking at the last example won’t immediately know that you became unemployed at the beginning of 2022.

One downside of using this method is that it makes your resume less ATS-friendly. Many larger companies use applicant tracking systems to weed out unqualified applicants, so if your employment gap is shorter than six months, it’s better to include both month and year.

An employment gap of six months or less is usually considered acceptable by employers and won’t appear suspicious.

Submit a cover letter even if it’s not required

Generally speaking, all job seekers should submit a cover letter along with their resume, even if the employer doesn’t require it. However, it’s especially important to submit a cover letter if you’ve got a career gap to address.

A resume doesn’t leave any room for explanations, because it’s a straightforward document that lists the skills and experience that make you qualified for the job. A cover letter allows for a bit more flexibility. 

While your cover letter should mainly focus on showing employers why your background and work style makes you a great fit for the role and the company, make sure to include a short sentence that explains why you’ve been out of work. 

Then, follow it up with a brief reflection on why this is the right time for you to advance your career.

Be upfront about your career gap during interviews

Employers understand that many women currently applying for work have been affected by the pandemic, whether that be directly or indirectly. Admitting that you took a break in your career to ensure the health and safety of your family isn’t a job interview killer.

Other employment gaps that are typically considered acceptable include taking time off to focus on personal projects, furthering your education, being laid off, or relocating to a new city.

Hiring managers will probably ask you about your career gap, but don’t be afraid to bring up the topic yourself. By addressing it head-on and explaining why you’re now ready to get back to work, you demonstrate confidence and show that you don’t have anything to hide. 

Additionally, it signals to hiring managers that you’ve carefully considered why this is the ideal time for you to focus on your career again.

Ida Pettersson is a content writer who enjoys supporting job seekers as they plan their next career moves. She graduated from New College of Florida with a double major in philosophy/Chinese language and culture.