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How to explain gaps in your employment on your resume

Updated on September 30, 2010

Gaps in your Resume or CV

When people travel for extensive lengths of time you always end up with gaps in your resume. In my mind, and this may be self-serving, I don't think a gap is a disaster unless you were really doing time or rehab for illegal drugs!

The important thing is to know how to explain the gap of employment history with the minimum of fuss or apology. Its your life you don't need to apologise for taking time off to live it. However there ways to phrase things to maybe persuade a future employer that NOW you are ready to concentrate on the important things in life like working for him.

The other thing to consider too, that although you may desparately want/need the job, or at least the money it pays, do you really want to work for someone who is so work-obsessed that they think all you should do is work 24/7 for someone else's profit?

Another gap in my Resume
Another gap in my Resume
House renovations can cause gaps too!
House renovations can cause gaps too!

Gaps in your Employment History

So what we are talking about is not so much gaps in your Resume or CV which you should avoid at all costs - but rather gaps in your employment history -which is perfectly normal as far as I am concerned!

Gaps in employment can occur because:

  • you were unemployed - it happens to the best of us
  • you went back to school for more study or to retrain
  • you backpacked around Europe for 1/2 a year

  • you renovated your home full-time

  • you undertook non-professional employment to pay the rent or as part of a working-holiday
  • you were ill or someone close to you was
  • raising a family

Resume Explanations: Gaps in Employment

In the Resume:

Working Holiday in Europe when I endulged my passion for European history and improved my Spanish while working in the hosptiatlity industry.


I travelled around Europe partying and drinking until the cash ran out and then I did some illegal work waiting tables while shacked up with my Spanish boyfriend.

In the Resume:

Hands on project manager for a full-scale remodel and renovation of a run-down early 20th Century townhouse. I had full financial control of the budget. I liaised with the tradespeople on site on a daily basis. I was responsible for interior design and decoration.

What Actually Happened:

I couldn't get a job when I moved back to my hometown and ended up moving into a rental I already owned and doing it up while I tried to get a job. The money run out after the major building work so I did all finishing off including painting and decorating.

Number One Tip to Hide Resume Gaps :

Look at this resume:

Nov 2003 - Oct  2004 ABC Company Ltd Clerk 
Nov 2004 - May 2005 Trip to Australia 
Jun 2005 Mar 2006 Smith Company Ltd  Purchasing Officer 
Apr 2006 Nov 2007 The big Round the World Trip 

Obviously this person has only worked 21 months in the 4 years to Nov 07. They also seem to keep quitting jobs just after they've got useful and talking off on another trip!

Now compare this resume:

2003 - 2004 ABC Company Ltd Clerk
2005 - 2006   Smith Company Ltd  Purchasing Officer
2007 The big Round the World Trip

Now this person appears to have worked for 4 years out of the last 5 years. Yes she's done a big trip but is probably ready to commit to a job for a while - after all she must be broke!

Notice how the shorter trip disapears entirely as it was within a year. Now if cross-examined in the interview you would have to admit the actual dates but I have been doing this for years on my resume and not oneinterviewer has asked yet!

So my number 1 tip to hide resume gaps: loose the months - only report years in your work history. Time your career breaks to start early in a calendar year and finish late in a calendar year!

The Author

Lis Sowerbutts has been traveling since age 7, and has to date visited over 55 countries. She firmly believes in traveling for the over-30's and that you are never too old to start traveling A New Zealander, Lis currently lives in Perth, Australia.


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    • profile image

      Monica 5 years ago

      I relocated 2yrs ago out of state and have been looking for a job but can't seem to land anything. I know it has to do with the employment gap but how can I spin that? I've been a stay at home mom car pooling sports and volunteering at the schools.I've done everything I could to make sure my kids adapt to the change(their doing well I'm the one that can't adjust). I even learned the art of couponing but these employers don't think that's enough!

    • profile image

      mayank 5 years ago

      i wanna join pharma company as a medical rep.but my problem

      is i done my graduation in 2009.after that i was preparing

      compt. exams now is 2012 2years wt should i do?

    • profile image

      Niye 6 years ago

      I suffered depression and have done nothing at all for 3 years since I passed out of University. I am fine now and want to start a career but how do I explain this long gap?

    • profile image

      ashish 6 years ago

      i havn't cleared my 12th in one attempt i have cleared in 2nd attent ,,now i'm doing engineering ,,,please anyone tell what i have to say in my job interview if anyone ask me about this gap.......

    • profile image

      jus_me 6 years ago

      of course you are better off not showing that 3 months experience, I've had over 30 jobs, yet I only put 3-4 on my resume based on the direction I am going, they cannot verify most of the things on the resume, it is just a hook, so you can get a meeting, once you do, THAT is your time to shine!! good luk!

    • profile image

      ANI 6 years ago

      Hi Friends,

      I have a problme and I feel you guys can surely help me out with your valuable suggestions.

      I worked in a IT firm for 3.6 yrs and then I joined another firm but I didn't last long over there and due to bad quality of work I left the 2nd firm in jus 3 months.

      and joined 3 rd company and its been 1 yrs with this new company. Now when I try changing the company..not a single employer is entertaining me coz of the fact that I hve left the 2nd company in jus 3 mnths.

      Is it possible not to show the exp of 3 months of the 2nd company..though it will reduce my overall exp by 3mnths but it is affordable..if I get a better firm to join.

      during Background check, do HR of new company verify frm the previous company HR about my past company records? or they just check how long the employee has worked in there company?

      It would be beneficial if you can let me know what all things are asked during background check for an employee?

      Kindly suggest.

    • profile image

      Good Fellow 6 years ago

      How WOULD you handle a gap caused by needed time in rehab? Last year, the stress of my job spiked dramatically and I hadn't yet recovered from the end of my 9 year relationship - I couldn't 'breathe' - turned to drinking and drugs to kill the pain.

      Sad but honestly true. I'm a very well educated and talented 44 year old business profession who built his life out of nothing. I made a mistake and I got the help I needed.

      Now - my job seems to be hanging in the balance and I'm afraid to believe that I'm not 'suspect' at work and already out of a job in ways (LTD will end soon and I'll return then). I'm certainly not feeling the usual 'sympathy' for a sick colleague at all!

      what do you think? I guess their won't be a gap...I"m still employed but I don't think it will be for long. Any advice overall?


    • ExecResumeGenius profile image

      ExecResumeGenius 7 years ago from Sacramento, CA

      Using the Functional Resume format instead of the Chronological format will help mask this too in a professional way. Nice hub!

    • profile image

      Canadian 7 years ago

      For business owners, it's sometimes hard to find the right people for some positions, so with all you say, we may have to ask more questions when interviewing someone...


    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 7 years ago from At the Gemba

      I have a couple of times gone off on extensive trips before starting new jobs, this has always been planned, but as you suggest just putting the years makes things that little bit easier and stops the negative thoughts..

    • walkin profile image

      walkin 7 years ago from India

      Now I know how to give reasoning for "gaps" in a Resume. !!

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      ROTFL Barbara! That's weird - the photo is from one of the many temples of Angkor Wat , Cambodia, if other's are wondering. When were you there - we were there Jan 06 - seems like a long time ago now!

    • BarbaraMay profile image

      BarbaraMay 9 years ago from Canada

      Hey Lissie,

      Your top picture is me! At least, I have the exact same pic in my album. And you know what? I'm a Kiwi, born, and raised in Canada. Also started travelling the world at age 7. Twilight zone parallels!

    • Rudra profile image

      Rudra 9 years ago

      Great tips.

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      Dalia - remember the CV is a sales letter, you can't lie or claim what you haven't done but I have no hesitation on editing - especially motivation - who can prove motivation but you! DJTPHN don't worry about - I wonder how I ever got a job with some of my earlier CV's - luckily I have now lost the old floppies they were on!

    • djtphn1 profile image

      djtphn1 9 years ago from Riverside County, California

      I guess I have only run across several when I was applying for Pharmaceutical sales...those people are so would not believe...wish I had your advice back then....

    • daliakins profile image

      daliakins 9 years ago from Atlanta,GA

      This is great stuff. I love your CV version vs the real life version of what happened. I've had trouble explaining my trips in the past. I'm working now - but this will help me revise the current resume. Thanks.

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      I've not come across a company actually defining how you should layout your cv - I guess if it was an application for - that might be different - though for that I would tend to fill in the name/contact details and for everything else say see attached resume!

    • djtphn1 profile image

      djtphn1 9 years ago from Riverside County, California

      Great info Lizzie,,,,can't wait to use it....never knew how to explain, now I do! One question, though, what if the company you are applying to requests that you use months/years, instead of just years....their lies a problem? Yes?

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      You can use it to hide jobs you just never want to do again too - no all experience is good!

    • caspar profile image

      caspar 9 years ago from UK

      That "lose the months" trick is one that I've used to cover a series of short-term temporary jobs and short periods of unemployment. It's always worked a treat and I think a resume looks much neater with just years too. When you get to a certain age and have had lots of jobs, that's really useful.

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      I notice now you mentioned in your hub too - its odd I've never seen it in a proper resume book - maybe the Americans insist on months? I just did it again and it got me a very positive interview - based on work experience over 10 years ago!

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Marisa Wright 9 years ago from Sydney

      I've used the same trick - omitting the months - for years, and it has always worked for me, too. In fact I've had compliments on my resumes.