How to explain gaps in your resume in the era of COVID-19

COVID-19 has devastated many areas of the workforce and continues to do so as vaccinations start to roll out. Depending on your industry, you may have lost your job early on in the pandemic and are still unable to find work for your particular skill set. 

As the vaccine is distributed, we hope to create herd immunity with at least 80% of people being vaccinated. Due to this optimism, many companies are starting to hire to be ahead of the curve when the economy rebounds.

For those who lost their jobs during COVID-19, it can be challenging to explain gaps in your resume due to the pandemic. 

Illysa Raphel, the VP and Senior Talent Acquisition leader at Power Home Remodeling, has several tips and insights into how best to explain gaps in your resume due to COVID-19. Interviewing is a large portion of her role as a Talent Acquisition Leader, and she works closely with potential candidates.

According to Raphel, if you are anxious about applying for a new position, there are several guidelines and strategies to navigate a gap in your resume and a right and wrong way to present yourself.

How you should account for gaps in your resume due to a furlough or layoff

Raphel states: 

While you might feel the need to stretch the truth or lie as an explanation for gaps in your resume, always be honest when interviewing. Your date of separation should be noted in addition to the reasoning, whether it was due to a furlough or a layoff as a result of COVID. 

Employers realize that this past year has been a challenging time for businesses, so they will be understanding if they see gaps on resumes. However, candidates should go into their interview expecting to be asked why a gap appears on their resume.

No matter how “imperfect” your resume looks, you want to set yourself up for the best by being as authentic and honest as possible. Don’t overcompensate. No matter what you did with your time over the last few months, we have all been living through unusual circumstances during the pandemic. 

As a talent acquisition leader, I am not aware of who lives in your home or what your household looks like financially. Taking odd jobs may have been more economically ideal for your situation and that is completely okay to share.

How employers will be looking at these gaps

When asked about how employers will initially feel about gaps, Raphel explained:

These resume gaps are to be expected given the number of furloughs and layoffs that have occurred this year. Interviewing someone who is actively on a job search and has been for the past few months is far more common than encountering candidates that have been working full time. 

While living through a global pandemic, we simultaneously have had inhumane acts of racial injustice hitting us in the face. And both circumstances are taking a devastatingly emotional toll on people, especially those who are out of work and on the hunt.

Now is not a time for judgement as far as assuming candidates were being lazy or not taking advantage of opportunities. As VP and Senior Talent Acquisition Leader, I will look at resume gaps with much more context and understanding.

Tips for your resume: communicate professional growth and development 

Finally, Raphel provided several tips for what to place on your resume:

In terms of “extracurriculars,” any engagement outside of work that has impacted your career development in a positive way isn’t needed on a candidate’s resume. However, those experiences always tell the employer a bit more about the person’s interests and skills outside of their respective role. 

Whether these include participating in a CD&I program or having active involvement in a mentorship, volunteer program, or one’s faith, these resume additions contribute to your overall image and give an employer an idea of how you choose to spend your time. 

Another thing to tout on your resume is a commitment to continued learning. Ongoing education is very important to us at Power. We have assigned reading and courses on self development to our employees, with the objective to enrich our staff outside of the work they participate in on the daily. 

While leadership development courses are great, something such as a yoga certification is also impressive. These certifications show that you possess transferable skills. While these credentials may be unrelated to the role you are interviewing for, they still set you apart, so don’t minimize them. It shows employers that you have a breadth of talents and skills you can bring to the table.

The takeaway

The year 2020 was filled with unexpected and unique circumstances. Many people are dealing with layoffs and gaps in their resumes. Potential employers understand the many of the job losses this year were no fault of the employee. 

Go into your next job interview with confidence and a renewed enthusiasm for the beginning of your next journey.