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Do's and Don'ts of How to Explain the Unemployment Gaps in your Resume

Updated on October 30, 2012

These days, it's not uncommon for someone to have gaps in their resume. Many people believe that taking time off over the years to do traveling or even immerse themselves in some self-exploration is a good use of their time. Others experience layoffs or bouts of unemployment for other reasons that can leave holes in the resume. Despite the fact that it's common, many employers still aren't thrilled to receive a resume that has some missing pieces.

Here are the Do's and Don'ts of explaining those gaps so that you can get hired in spite of them:


  • Tell the exact truth if it can harm you. If you were unemployed because no one would hire you, you were dealing drugs or you preferred welfare to working, that's fine. But it's not what you want to tell someone that's going to hire you.
  • Flat out lie. While you're going to need to embellish the truth or fib a little here and there, you don't want to flat out lie, especially with some sort of extravagant lie that that's not going to be believable or verifiable.
  • Make excuses. You need to sound confident in any interview so don't make excuses for those gaps. Simply explaining them clearly and logically in a way that no one could argue with.
  • Avoid the issue. This will make you look suspicious when really you're probably just insecure about it.


  • Be clear about what you were doing during the time of unemployment.
  • Think of something that you learned during this period and focus on how it will help the new business. For example, say that you spent those months surfing the web. Perhaps you learned to blog and gained insight into social networking. That can be a great skill for employers so instead of saying that you hung out online, stress that you spent that time doing an independent study of blogging and social networking that you can use in your new position once you're hired.
  • Describe the benefits of your period of unemployment. If you spent the time traveling, explain how you were exposed to diversity in a way that gave you a better understanding of how to work with clients from different backgrounds. If you were ill, explain your newfound appreciation of how great it is to be healthy enough to work.
  • Sound genuine. It can sound insincere when you're boasting about your experiences and the way they help a business. Make an effort to sound sincere.
  • Ask the interviewer about his or her own experiences with time off of work.
  • Use the word sabbatical. This makes your time off of work sound important even if it really wasn't.

It's getting increasingly common for people to take time to themselves that leaves gaps in their resume. Don't apologize for them or sell yourself short. Figure out how those gaps benefited you and how they can benefit the company that you want to work for. Explain that clearly enough in an interview and the gaps won't matter much at all.


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