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How to Avoid Gaps In Your Resume - Explaining Resume Gaps

Updated on December 13, 2012

Employment Gaps Are Often Noticeable

Image (c) 2007 by Patty Inglish. All rights reserved.
Image (c) 2007 by Patty Inglish. All rights reserved.

How To Cover Some Employment Gaps

Employment gaps on a resume can appear to be disasters that will prevent a job seeker from being employable. This is based on the idea of job-hopping as an indicator of a character flaw or an unstable personality. Until the IT Industry demonstrated that a single year on an IT job was not a problem because these professionals are expected to change companies fairly often, less than a 2-year stint in a single job was a red flag for a personality disorder in the various editions of the DSM of the American Psychiatric Association.

The institution of job sharing and of working 2 or 3 part-time jobs at once have also become acceptable in America. However, a total employment gap of several years can indicate a problem. If a student or worker participates in consistent volunteer service in high school, college, and career years, there is no large employment gap, because volunteer work is still work.

Volunteer positions count as work on a resume and can be included either in the Professional Experience section or a separate Volunteer Service section.

Owning a small or micro- business such as a home-based venture can also be a bridge between periods of employment. A family I know has sold health and wellness prodcuts for many years, more intensely during wage-paying employment stints. Thus, it is a long-term business venture that shows determination, self-reliance, stamina, and success.

The Intent of Including Volunteer Work

The goal of placing volunteer service on resumes is not to hide horrible facts and reasons for unemployment, but to show

  • A willingness of a job seeker to put forth extra effort, even if unpaid, and
  • A willingness to continue to work and be productive after a paid job ends.

Sickness and surgery, prison time, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, caring for an ill relative, and involuntary terminations like layoffs and firings are more difficult to explain. Volunteer work can often show consistent effort depsite an involuntary employment termination, but will likely not cover or even usually exist during the other hard-to-cover circumstances above that prevent working. A frank discussion with an interviewer will be useful in these cases.


Example of Including Volunteer Work On a Resume

Magdelena Smith

1824 Pennsylvania Corner, Pittsburg PA OOOOO (zip code)

(123) 456 - 5789



  • 25 years success in Management of Volunteer Services.
  • Recipient of the Rose of Concern Award for excellence.
  • Grocery and drug store Retail Sales and Cashier experience.


Exeter Community Church
4276 Harper Vally Way; Circumspect OH 00000 (zip code)

Coordinator of Communion Services, Praise and Worship Committee

  • Enlists and supervises volunteers for securing communion and Palm Sunday supplies and preparing communion for up to three separate congregations on a weekly basis for several services on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Purchases and picks up supplies for twice-weekly communions, Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday celebrations.
  • Other duties as required.

Clerical Assistant

  • Helps to prepare weekly church bulletins.

Assistant Attendance Coordinator, Fibromyalgia Pain Support Group

  • Calls support group members to remind them of group meetings and other activities; welcomes new members and visiting professionals.
  • Assists in securing guest speakers for the support group, including nurses and therapists.
  • Leads some pain support group meetings in the leader’s absence.

Volunteer, Bereavement Dinner Committee


  • Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, Meijer, Walgreens.


Bowling Green University, Bowling Green, Kentucky

  • Major: Journalism
  • Active in Kappa Phi service sorority.


  • Microsoft Office Suite 2007: Word processing; preparing church bulletins.
  • Outlook, AOL, and Yahoo Email processes, Internet research, downloading files, other.
  • Facebook and MySpace set-up and posting.
  • General office equipment: PCs, computer printers, copy machines.


This talented individual worked her way through college and married, leaving the workforce with the arrival of two children. After the children became school aged, she worked limited part-time hours during some school months. She had left college two quarters short of graduation, but had a subtantial number of important courses and a good grade point average. She even did volunteer service in college.

Her employed work experience covered 5 consecutive years and several part-time intermittent years. Listing the dates of these jobs chronologically would inicate a pattern consistent with a job-hopper or an individual that was unable to hold a job. This is not acceptable on a resume. At the same time, being asked by an interviewer about family, children, and living arrangements is forbidden by law, so dates and family should be left off this resume as well.

However, this individual possesses 25 years of consistent volunteer work in responsible long-term positions, the major one a supervisory position. This work is within her church, saving thousands of dollars in salaries that the congregation could not afford. At 20 hours per week, this is certainly consistent work and would be work still if it were only 2 hours per week. While being asked about church and religious practices is illegal, there is little to be done to escape listing the church as the volunteer employer.

Volunteer work may be listed under either PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE (if it is substantial) or VOLUNTEER SERVICE. During an interview, an opening may insert itself to inform the interviewer that this 30-year position is an unpaid one. He or she may ask the person how much they were paid, for instance. No excuses should be made for non-payment of a wage, because volunteer work is work. When asked how one survived, one may state that he or she had other income. Do not mention family, husband, or children. If you do, you yourself open the interview to all sorts of illegal questions. If you know that the company is family-friendly in advance, you might feel safer in disclosing this information, so carefully consider the possible consequences of this choice.


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