How to explain multiple gap years on a resume

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Life happens. We become stay-at-home parents. Sometimes we have to take time off to care for a sick family member. Maybe we just wanted to take some time off to travel the world.

Whatever the situation may be, it can be intimidating to explain to a potential employer why you have multiple “gap years” in your resume.

If you have lost hope that you won’t get your dream job due to your gap in employment, fear not. According to a study conducted by ResumeGo, applicants who could explain their gap of three or more years to the hiring manager received about 60% more interviews. Employers want to know why you took time off, whether it was voluntary or not. 

So, what is the “correct” way to answer exactly why you took all that time off? Everyone’s answer will vary due to the reason why you took off and what you did while you were unemployed.

This article will help you decide what is the best answer for your situation and how you should carefully craft your answer.

Do I even mention my gap year?

There is no point in mentioning the gap year if you have been employed since you took the time off. Highlight your most recent work experience, especially if it was a higher-level job. You do not need to list every single job you have had in your life, especially if it was a job you had many years ago at the start of your career.

If you had a gap between one of your first jobs and your second, there is no need to include that. Your entry-level job a decade ago won’t be relevant to the more advanced job you are applying to now, so just take it off the resume. There is no need to list a gap year if you don’t have to.

Always tell the truth

When asked by the hiring manager why you took time off, it is always best to be truthful. Lying will only come back to haunt you in the future, so it is best to always be honest in your answer and on your resume.

While there are ways to make the gap less noticeable (for example, putting just the years you were employed as opposed to month and the year), you must list it or mention it. It’s always best to be open and forthcoming with your answers.

In an article for Monster.com, Nicole Williams, a career expert and author of Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success, says: “Unemployment happens. . .Being honest about your situation gives the employer a sense of your integrity and confidence — two characteristics every employer is looking for.”

If you were laid off

If you were fired due to a lack of ability to perform, it may be tough to explain that to the employer. However, if you were laid off due to company downsizing, it would be helpful to provide information regarding why they downsized.

Be sure to mention your strengths during your time at the company and if you have any references that could back up your ability to perform well.

If you took time off to help a sick family member or became a stay-at-home parent

We are all human. As a result of that, we sometimes need to take a hiatus from our corporate jobs to care for the family. Luckily, we live in a time where time off for parental leave has become widely accepted (and paid for by many companies.) Most employers are understanding of these life occurrences. Being honest about this gap will most likely be respected. Be sure to mention though that this period of time has ended and you are excited to get back to working (hopefully for their company.)

Always list the positives

No matter the reason you took time off, always end the conversation on a positive note. For example, if you wanted to travel the world for a year, note how that has made you a more cultured, well-rounded individual (and if international relations is one of the aspects of the job you are applying for, even better!)

If possible, try to relate what you learned and your experience back to the job you want. Are there any aspects of your time off that would relate back to the company and benefit them in any way?

Although getting back into the workforce after taking a gap can be nerve-wracking, it is always important to be forthright and positive.

Always focus on your contributions rather than your gaps and highlight your strengths for the position you are interviewing for. If you follow these steps, you will be back in the workforce in no time.