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How to explain gaps in your resume, according to career experts

"If this gap was seven years ago, don't focus on it too much."

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If you're one of the millions of Americans currently looking for work, one of your concerns may be how to explain the length of time you've been out of a job. Employers sometimes see a gap between positions as an issue.

At the moment, though, given the pandemic, hiring managers are more understanding.

"Employers know the state of what's going on," says Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster, about the reason you may have been out of a job since early this year. "They may have had to furlough or lay off employees themselves."

If you happen to have gaps on your resume from this or previous years, here are a few tips on how to address them.

Address the gap briefly on your resume itself

Depending on what your reason is for having a gap in your resume, you may be able to address it briefly.

"If you took a sabbatical from work, if you were caring for a sick relative," says Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopResume, you can actually just "have a one-liner [in the resume] that explains what you were doing." Add the line where it makes sense chronologically in your career history and don't go into too much depth. You want employers paying attention to your career accomplishments, not your time off.

You can also try playing around with how you present your resume timeline, says Augustine, like only including the years you were at your jobs as opposed to the years and specific months, so as to potentially downplay any glaring periods of time when you might not have been working.

"If this gap was seven years ago, don't focus on it too much," says Augustine. "It's probably not even going to make the first page of your resume, it's going to make the second page. There's more emphasis put on that first page."

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'Have a talking point' for the interview

Whether or not you decide to address the gap in your resume, "you definitely need to have a talking point in mind when you're asked about it, because you will be asked about it during the interview," says Salemi.

Whether you were taking time off to get another degree or to travel the world to soak up new cultures, "you want to discuss what you achieved during that time," says Augustine.

Did the time off give you a chance to try a different career? Did you read books on various subject matters to see what you might want to focus on in the future? Think of concrete examples of how you used that time to help you move forward.

"You could even say, 'I was laid off from a job and I took that time period to be with my family and really reconsider the type of role I wanted for myself,'" says Augustine.

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Between jobs now? Use your time wisely

If you're not working, consider using the time both to enrich your skills and knowledge base and to prepare for when these types of questions might come up in the future.

  • Browse through LinkedIn Learning's different certificate programs and courses to see if any of them might be pertinent to your field or could help you pivot in the future.
  • Look up college courses online that could expand your skill set.
  • See if there are internships or volunteer work you can do that'll help give you some extra experience.

And remember, in job interviews, "don't dwell on [leaving your last job]," says Augustine. Keep the focus on the present and the future. "You're always trying to move that conversation back to why what you're pursuing today makes sense, why you're excited about it, and why you want to take on this new challenge."

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