Do you have gaps in your employment? Gaps can create doubt in the employer’s mind and can result in you going to the maybe pile at best, no pile at worst. How do you explain employment gaps in a resume?

Handling employment gaps within a calendar year

The easiest way to make gaps conveniently disappear when within a calendar year, is simply to only include years for the start and end date on your resume. Note you may need to include full dates if converting to an internal application form, so always have handy.

So rather than July 2020 – June 2021 and then December 2021- July 2023 the roles would just say 2020 -2021 and 2021 – 2023 respectively. It’s true and it hides the gap.

Handling employment gaps over a year

If the gaps are longer then add in a ‘role’ in the work experience section and optionally an explanation.

Career break (travelling) 2019 – 2020

You can add a line explaining further, or even add in a skill or achievement which this experience taught you.

Taking a career break to be a mum or dad is fine too!

As many employers and recruiters are parents themselves, many get taking time out to be a parent. The stigma which was sometimes encountered has been largely removed.

There will always be the odd person who has an issue with people with children, especially if they’re young. One of my early bosses used to try and ask young women if they planned to have children, as he didn’t want to ‘waste’ time on someone who was going to leave. This is highly illegal and you do NOT have to answer such a question!

In another workplace, a lady who came back from maternity leave after a year had her child in daycare. The child did, as children do, catch every sniffle, bug etc. So they’d go a day, get sick and have days off. The employee couldn’t work for much of that first year back. This put huge pressure and stress on the rest of the team through no fault of anyone. At least post Covid she probably would’ve been able to work from home!

So there can be valid concerns for a business hiring young parents, although it should not really be a form of discrimination. Do consider though how a team can cover you if you could be away a lot. A small business or small team will struggle to cover you, whereas a call centre may be able to cover you more easily.

Something to ask yourself. If you are judged for being a parent (or for other discriminatory reasons), is it really a business you want to work for?

Explaining an employment gap due to health or acting as a carer

You can actually gain some compassion from an employer, by including a Career Break (Carer), and then include a line to say you were looking after your mum who has since passed away. It shows compassion, and also shows you won’t be called away again to care for her. If the person you were caring for is still unwell, then you may want to include a comment as to why they won’t be too much of a disruption to your work (I.e. another relative had taken over the care function, or the issue has been resolved). After all, what’s more important to you? Probably your family will take precedence over your work. An employer will see that.

Career break – operation and recovery

This may again be relatively okay if the operation and recovery led to full restored health. It may give an employer concern however if it was for a back injury which you are still carrying. You may want to at least add a comment about mitigating the issue. You might say you work with a standing desk which you’re happy to provide if need be.

Career break – mental health

Mental health can be a more complex issue, as it is still less understood by many employers. Ultimately you want to give the employer confidence if they hire you they won’t regret it later. If your mental health issue is extreme like psychotic breaks, then it may be a good idea to contact the employer by phone first. General mental health issues however are finally becoming less of an issue as it is widely recognised depression and anxiety are rife in the community. Again you may want to include a comment which covers mitigation. Why does the employer not need to work about your mental health?

How to explain a prison stay in your resume and when job seeking

If you had a prison stay, I would suggest contacting the employer by phone first, as for some employers it can be an instant no. This can be the case especially when security and fraud could be issues. Contacting the employer you can suss out whether it would be an instant no for policy reasons, or whether the person or business would be uncomfortable. Some will be more understanding and give you a fair go. Don’t face ‘another rejection’ with your resume if you never stood a chance.


Why do gaps over 10 years ago not matter?

Finally, why don’t you need to bother for dates older than ten years? We strongly recommend NOT including dates on your resume more than 10-15 years old. It allows the employer or recruiter to work out your age, and ageism is unfortunately rife. If you create a separate ‘Relevant past work experience’ section and leave out dates, then no gaps will be seen prior to 2010.

Exceptions when disclosing your age or being a single parent is a good thing

There are some exceptions to the age/date issue. Longevity in a financial markets fund manager for instance is considered a good thing. It’s because you’ve actually lived, worked and proven yourself through multiple full market cycles.

Also if over 50 in Australia, your employer may be able to access a wage subsidy of up to $10k for hiring you – this could be a great incentive and should be pointed out if you know you’d be an eligible employee.

Likewise, certain age groups and single parents can also gain wage subsidies. You can find out about wage subsidies here.

Explaining employment gaps in your resume

Although it may feel awkward and vulnerable, covering career gaps is always better than leaving a gap, and the employer or recruiter thinking the worst. Sometimes a phone call first can help you work out if the gap will cause an issue. Also remember an organisation who judges you for your career gap, may not be an employer you want to work with anyway.

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