7 Ways to Explain Resume Gaps

Defending resume gaps can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can turn potential red flags into showcases of growth and resilience.

Key Takeaways

  • It's common to have gaps in your resume, and they can be addressed effectively to potential employers without setting off red flags.
  • Focus on owning the resume gap confidently rather than trying to evade it. Explain the reasons behind the gap in a positive light.
  • Resume gaps can occur for many reasons including personal development, education, freelancing, volunteering, health-related breaks, caring for family, or starting a business. 
  • Whatever the reason for the gap, highlight how the time was spent productively to gain skills and experiences that are valuable to employers.
  • Strategies involving changes in your cover letter to your conduct during the interview can help better explain resume gaps. 
  • Utilize available resources like Unmudl’s job-focused courses to enhance your skills in preparation for the next job opportunity.
Defending resume gaps can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can turn potential red flags into showcases of growth and resilience.

A lot of us have been there. You're applying for a job, crafting the perfect cover letter, and then you remember a disquieting fact: there’s a gap in your resume

You may think this will be a red flag for employers, but fear not! Resume gaps are normal. A recent survey of nearly 23,000 workers and more than 7,000 hiring managers found that 62% of employees have taken a break from their careers at some point.

With the right approach, you can effectively explain away gaps in your resume to potential employers.

Let's get into seven powerful strategies to address resume gaps, actionable tips, and real-world examples. 

Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course

Understanding Why Gaps Happen

Resume gaps can arise for various reasons––some planned, others unexpected. But there’s always the possibility of turning many of these situations into strengths.

1. Personal Development

Taking time off for personal development is common and can greatly help your professional life. 

Whether you pursued a passion, traveled, or simply took time to reassess your career objectives, all of these experiences can be explained as enriching your personal and professional identity.

Employers are now increasingly looking for new hires with positive attitudes, who are flexible and adaptive––qualities you can display through non-professional activities too. 

Here’s a hypothetical example. 

Imagine you spent three months traveling through Asia. This experience likely enhanced your adaptability, cross-cultural communication skills, and perhaps even language proficiency. 

It gives you the chance to highlight how these skills can be advantageous in diverse and dynamic work environments.

Also read: 12 Common Resume Mistakes You Must Fix Immediately for Better Results

a person backpacking

2. Continuing Education

Putting in the effort to stay updated with the latest trends and technologies is appreciated in most industries. 

A 2023 NACE survey found that traditional “one-and-done” degrees are no longer enough.

Continuing education––whether through formal degrees, online courses, or professional workshops––demonstrates your commitment to enhancing your expertise and staying relevant in your field. 

It can show that you remain proactive about moving your professional life forward even during long periods of unemployment.

Discuss with employers how the courses you took equipped you with new knowledge or technical skills to become a more capable, industry professional.

According to Peter Yang, CEO of ResumeGo, “Among applicants who provided a reason for their work gap, those who said they received additional training or education ended up with the highest callback rate”.

For those looking to follow a similar path, Unmudl offers a variety of courses aligned with current industry demands. These are specifically designed to boost employability and connect you with industry-leading employers. 

3. Freelancing or Consulting

Freelancing or consulting are excellent ways to fill employment gaps while building valuable industry experience. These roles can demonstrate your initiative, versatility, and the continuous development of your professional skills.

Whatever the reason behind your career break, try to take on a project or two during the period, circumstances permitting. Even a light amount of work will show your dedication and professionalism

When presenting freelance work, check in with your clients to see if they are comfortable with you listing their name, project, or company.

people in a meeting

4. Volunteering

We often think of volunteering as a purely altruistic activity, but it can also be a healthy way of developing and demonstrating new skills

A study from the most cited journal in its field, Frontiers in Psychology, summarized that research across years has “confirmed that volunteering has a positive impact on employability and the development of employability skills among all age groups and professional categories”. 

Volunteering in a capacity related to your field displays your skills and continued professional activity. Other volunteer work still fills resume gaps while showing your commitment to the community. 

If you volunteered as a project coordinator for a local non-profit, for instance, discuss how you led a team, managed budgets, and met project deadlines. This can add value and support applications for project management roles.

Identify which skills you learned or developed that are transferable to your desired role.

5. Health-Related Breaks

Taking time off for health reasons is increasingly understood in today's workplace. It's important to focus on the positive aspects of your break, such as recovery and your renewed perspective on work.

A 2023 CNBC article noted that, overall, more people were taking ‘health and well-being’ breaks, and disclosing them to employers. 

You don't need to provide detailed medical information, but you can mention how the break allowed you to recover fully and why you are now ready to contribute effectively to a team. 

Make sure to be transparent with any doubts prospective employers might have about your health-related break.

6. Caring for Family

Family care is a common reason for employment gaps, and many employers recognize the demanding nature of such responsibilities. 

According to a study by Professor Joseph Fuller published by the Harvard Business School, 73% of all employees have some type of current caregiving responsibility. Despite common stereotypes, it’s not just mothers who are impacted by this. The same study found that “a greater percentage of men (38%) reported having left a job than women (27%)” due to caregiving responsibilities. 

The organizational, emotional, and time-management skills developed during this time can be considered highly valuable in any professional setting.

It is critical, however, to articulate these well. A 2022 LinkedIn survey found that 51% of employers would be more likely to call a candidate back if they knew the context of why they took a career break. 

For example, explain how caring for an elderly relative improved your ability to manage schedules, communicate empathetically, prioritize tasks, and operate under high pressure.

7. Starting a Business

If your resume gap includes a successful business endeavor… then it’s not really a resume gap. It’s valuable to talk about it even if your business wasn’t successful.

Starting a business demonstrates initiative, courage, and multiple industry-specific skills that could be highly transferable in employment settings. 

Mention this experience and talk about how you benefited and learned from it.

For example, discuss the business you started, your role, and the skills you developed––from financial planning and customer service to strategic decision-making.

Strategies for Explaining Resume Gaps

When addressing resume gaps, the key is to frame them as periods of growth, learning, and preparation for the next stage of your career. This applies to all the gaps mentioned in the previous section––as well as those caused by personal choices or unforeseen circumstances.

56% of employees say they acquired new skills or improved existing ones during their career break. Explain your resume gaps by highlighting your strengths and readiness for new challenges. 

1. Leverage Your Cover Letter

Your cover letter is your chance to shine a light on your resume and address any potential concerns. Briefly acknowledge the gap with a line or two, then transition to highlight the skills and experiences gained during that period. 

For example:

"After five years with ABC Company, I took a six-month break to travel through Southeast Asia. This experience broadened my perspective, enhanced my communication skills, and helped me become adaptable in unfamiliar environments.”

2. Tailor Your Resume to Highlight Skills Gained During the Gap

Resumes are not static documents.  Rather than listing every single job you've ever had, tailor your resume to showcase the skills and experiences most relevant to the position you're applying for.

Here's how to do it:

  • Review the job description and identify key skills and requirements.
  • Did your gap involve activities or projects that honed those skills?
  • Consider adding a Volunteer Experience or Personal Projects section to your resume. 

3. Reframe Your Break as a Positive Choice

Don't feel pressured to apologize for taking a break. Instead, frame it as a positive decision that allowed you to develop valuable skills.

Whether on the cover letter or during the interview, talk about your break with confidence.

4.  Be Honest and Transparent

You can never go wrong with honesty, even though there's no need to go into unnecessary detail about personal situations. A simple, professional explanation will suffice.

For example:

"I took a leave of absence from the workforce to take care of a serious medical condition, as advised by my doctor. I have now fully recovered and am eager to contribute my skills and experience to your team."
a sick woman in bed

5. Addressing the Gap Confidently During Your Interview 

Be prepared to discuss the resume gap during your interview. Anticipate the question and be ready with a clear, concise response that aligns with your resume and cover letter.

Here are some tips for a confident response:

  • Maintain eye contact and a positive attitude.
  • Briefly explain the gap and connect it back to the skills or experiences relevant to the job.
  • Focus on the future and your enthusiasm for the opportunity.

6.  Quantify Your Achievements (Even for Non-Traditional Work)

Did you volunteer, travel extensively, or take care of a family member during your break?  While these experiences may not be relevant to traditional employment, they can still demonstrate valuable skills.

Quantifying them, in whatever way possible, helps give a more tangible sense of your efforts.

For example:

"Volunteered at a local homeless shelter for 4 days a week, serving over 1000 people a day. Managed logistics and coordinated volunteer efforts for a team of 20. Developed leadership, communication, and organizational skills."

7. Use LinkedIn Strategically

Your LinkedIn profile can act as an extension of your resume by offering context and details about your experiences––details that you might not be able to fit into a resume.

Here’s how:

  • Include a compelling summary section that briefly explains your career journey, including any gaps.
  • Expand on volunteer work, freelance projects, or personal achievements.
  • Utilize keywords from the job description to optimize your profile for searchability.

Your LinkedIn profile is often the first thing a recruiter sees, so invest enough time to make it a strong representation of you. 

Transition to Your Next Job with Unmudl!

Remember, your career path does not have to be linear to be successful. Life’s detours can equip you with unique skills and perspectives that enrich your professional abilities.

Are you looking to enhance your skills or transition back into the workforce?

Boost your credentials and prepare for your next career opportunity with Unmudl’s job-focused courses. From skills development to professional certifications, Unmudl provides training aligned with employers and job opportunities. 

Find the right Unmudl course for you and get one step closer to bridging the gap in your resume and landing your ideal job! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course

More Articles