A Career Gap on a Resume Can Kill Your Job Search

By Martin Buckland - Executive Career Management Professional

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A career gap can be defined as a period of months or years when an individual was not employed at a job, either by choice or circumstance. A gap in employment history on a resume, particularly extending a year or more, may cause concern by a potential hiring manager and could be the sole reason your resume was rejected.

For the unfortunate job seeker whose last paid role ended in 2013, and now we’re in 2015, it becomes imperative the downtime in employment be addressed in your resume and cover letter with honesty and positivity.

There are numerous reasons why an individual may find themselves in a period of career transition. Let’s start with maternity leave. Numerous companies now offer extended maternity leave options while other employees choose to quit with the goal of staying home indefinitely. I refer to this as a personal sabbatical. If you used the opportunity to not only raise a family but took some online courses, volunteered within the community, or project managed the family business, share those details with the reader. For example:

Personal Sabbatical, 2014 – present

Completed online courses in sales, marketing and promotions to heighten professional competencies and remain current while on an extended maternity leave.

Similar statements can be made if you halted your career to assume full time care giving duties to a family member. As Boomers, we’re the children of aging parents, thus I’m now seeing more clients who have taken family medical leave. It is a perfectly acceptable reason for a career gap so don’t feel inhibited in sharing with the reader.

Perhaps as part of your career plan you determined the need to advance your educational qualifications, necessitating a career gap to return to school. I recommend you show this in two areas: list your Academic Sabbatical in the Professional Experience section to avoid there being a gap in your career timeline when the resume is quickly scanned by HR. Secondly show your academic credentials including name of the institution, full degree / certification name and graduating year under the Education section of your resume.

Maybe you decided to suspend your career, or in the case of many a young graduate postpone a job search, by taking a travel sabbatical. If you can, plan your travels with a purpose of participating in an activity that can heighten your career qualifications by gaining international experience in your career field, be it for pay or as a volunteer then share that story with the reader. Having hands-on experience in international business protocol is a great career differentiator.

If your employment gap was not of your own choosing, but you haven’t successfully landed your next opportunity, it is imperative you try and fill the gap with work-related activities. Enrolling in career-related courses, being active in professional associations, and volunteering in a capacity where you can use your business competencies or acquire new relevant skills, are excellent ways to minimize the gap, downplay employer scepticism, and optimize your employability.

Employers understand career gaps happen; what’s more important to them is your integrity and how you used the time spent while unemployed.

Position yourself as an honest career professional by clearly explaining your employment gap but not languishing on it. Move on and make sure the rest of your resume is filled the career achievements and notable impact you made when you were employed and intend on making for a future employer.



Martin Buckland, President of Elite Resumes, is a leading resume writer, career coach and job search strategist with a global clientele. Martin currently holds the following certifications: Certified Professional Branding Strategist, Certified Professional Resume Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Job and Career Transition Coach, Certified Job Search Trainer and Co-Pilot Executive Coach. Visit my website at http://aneliteresume.com/

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