How to Describe Gaps in Employment

by Goodwill Easter Seals ReEntry Services

A gap in employment is a period of months or years in which one was not employed. An employment gap is caused by situations such as the inability to find work, going back to school, or serving a prison sentence. It will appear on your resume when you list your job experience. Employment gaps are red flags for employers. If they see one on your resume, they will most likely ask about it during your interview.


Here are some tips on how to minimize the impact of your employment gap:

  • Use a functional resume. This type of resume highlights skills and accomplishments rather than chronology of employment. It will help cover up any employment gaps you may have.


  • Get creative when you format your resume. When typing the dates of your past employment, use a smaller font for the dates and do not bold them. Include a summary section or an “other achievements” sections to show what you were doing during your employment gap and to draw attention away from your employment dates.


  • Omit a past job on your resume. You do not have to include your entire employment history on your resume, especially if omitting a past job will help hide an employment gap.


  • Explain in the cover letter. Doing so will prevent you from being screened out before you receive an interview. Be honest. The employer will probably want you to explain further in an interview.


  • Highlight the positive. When explaining your employment gap during an interview, make sure you explain all the positive things you did during that gap. For example, if it applies to you, tell the employer that while you were incarcerated you received you GED or learned a trade.


This article is a part of the STEP AHEAD Workbook (pdf), a collaboration of Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota and ISEEK. STEP AHEAD helps job seekers with felony convictions and other criminal charges know their work options, set goals, get training, and be successful in their job search.


4 thoughts on “How to Describe Gaps in Employment

  1. john mccray November 4, 2013 / 2:06 pm

    this was helpful as I am trying to get back in job market with several gaps in employment


  2. Rachel Vilsack July 1, 2013 / 1:33 pm

    Thanks for the comments!


  3. Elizabeth June 30, 2013 / 8:28 pm

    This is an interesting perspective because at the point I am in my career, an employment gap on my resume usually reflects a time that I was working a job simply to earn money while getting through school, even though it is not related to the internship/job I am applying for.  I am glad to know that it is okay to not include all job history on a resume and I think it is an excellent reminder that an employer may ask about the gap during the interview and one should have an answer prepared.  Thank you for the insight.  


  4. Megan June 30, 2013 / 8:47 am

    This was very helpful! I started my first job when I went to college but since then have transferred schools, graduated, and am now attending grad school in another state. I have had several jobs and periods where I wasn't working throughout this process. I never knew quite how to address this in cover letters and in interviews other than to say that I was a full-time student, so I'll definitely utilize these tips in the future!


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