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How to Address Career Gaps on Your Resume - Tips & Examples

Ho to address career gaps in your resume

Don’t panic: career gaps are common. Here’s how to positively present them (+ examples)

Gaps in your employment history are very normal. Unfortunately, many job seekers are concerned about how gaps will look to potential employers.

Hiring decision-makers don’t always make things easy, either: some have been conditioned by outdated thinking to assume that a gap in someone’s resume means they’re hiding something.

People have gaps for lots of good reasons. Family leave, travel, the pandemic, redundancy, disability, a saturated candidate market, simply not finding the right opportunity… the list is endless.

It’s also normal these days to remove certain experiences not relevant to the job you’re applying for, which may introduce a gap on paper.

Sensible recruiters will probe the reason, rather than make assumptions. Even then, their questioning is more out of curiosity, not as a way to filter you out of the process.

So, fear not! In this blog post, we’ll show you some techniques to positively address any gaps, which usually avoids any further questioning by hiring decision-makers.

When can a gap be ignored?

In general, if the gap was more than 5 years ago, it’s not really necessary to give a reason in your resume. What you did half a decade ago or more has no connection to your more recent experience.

If a recruiter does ask, you can simply tell them it was family leave or that you were searching for the right job. Unless it’s a reason that needs to be disclosed during a background or reference check (e.g. imprisonment), then there’s little point bringing the reason up.

How to Include a Gap in Your Resume

The first thing to remember is: you don’t need long-winded or apologetic explanations. Keep it factual and concise. Include the dates and reason.

A brief description of your activities can be included if needed. For example, if you were on maternity leave, but you kept up-to-date with industry trends and training during that time, it looks proactive to mention this. You’ll find some example wording in the sections below.

Family Leave

What this includes: Taking time off to care for ill family members, maternity/paternity leave (if you don’t want to specify which for some reason), taking a break after marriage, bereavement, or other life event.

Example resume entry:

Family Leave

Career Pause/Pivot

What this includes: This approach is appropriate for reasons that were beyond your control, such as a pandemic redundancy or other unemployment. It also addresses a pause between jobs when you took time to explore alternative career paths (this will also help explain why your previous and following roles were in different spheres).

Example resume entry:

Career Pause

Maternity / Paternity Leave

What this includes: Time taken off to care for a newborn or young child (e.g. through adoption).

In this case, unless you have pursued studies or kept up-to-date with industry trends at that time (see example for ‘Family Leave’ above), then no description is needed.

Example resume entry:

Paternity Leave

Study Leave

What this includes: Just as it says on the box, this is best for times when you took time off to pursue a degree, re-training, or other qualifications. This type of entry is best for mid-career studies; if referring to your pre-career studies, then leave these details to a separate ‘Education’ section instead.

Example resume entry:

Study Leave


Remember that gaps over the course of your professional life are very normal. While employers in the past used to be suspicious of these (back in the days when people tended to work for the same company for many years, or even for life), contemporary recruiters tend to view the occasional gap neutrally (or even positively, depending on the reason).

Key takeaways:

  1. It’s very common to have employment gaps for various reasons, such as family leave, travel, the pandemic, redundancy, disability, or not finding the right opportunity. It’s essential to understand that they’re normal, not something to be overly concerned about.
  2. Some employers may still hold outdated beliefs that career gaps imply something negative about a candidate. However, most sensible recruiters will inquire about the reasons for the gap rather than immediately dismissing them based on it.
  3. Be concise and factual when addressing resume gaps. Mention the dates and the reason, but avoid long or apologetic explanations. If necessary, include a brief description of your activities during the gap, especially if they demonstrate proactivity and industry engagement.
  4. Ignore older gaps: If a career gap occurred >5 years ago, there’s no need to explain it. Older experiences have little relevance to your recent work, and most recruiters won’t ask.
  5. We give specific examples and tips on how to present various types of career gaps on your resume, including for career breaks/pivots and family or maternity/paternity leave.
  6. Be honest and transparent about your career gaps while emphasizing the value you bring to the table with your skills and experiences.

For more insights, tips and strategies related to this topic, be sure to read our other articles: How Long Should My Resume Be? Tips for Ideal Resume Length & How to Quantify Achievements on Your Resume - Tips & Examples

Related questions

How to address a career gap due to mental health issues?

Addressing a career gap due to mental health issues in a resume requires a delicate balance between honesty and maintaining privacy. It's important to remember that you're not obligated to disclose specific personal details about your health. Instead, you can frame this period as a time taken off for personal health reasons, focusing on your readiness to return to work and any relevant skills or knowledge you may have gained or maintained during this time. Emphasizing your commitment to your professional development and how you've prepared to re-enter the workforce can also be beneficial.

What are specific strategies for explaining a career gap that resulted from unsuccessful job searching?

When explaining a career gap that resulted from an extended period of unsuccessful job searching, it's crucial to highlight how you've used the time productively. You might discuss any freelance projects, volunteer work, courses, or certifications you pursued during this time. The key is to show potential employers that you've remained engaged in your professional development, even if you were not employed in your field. This demonstrates resilience and a proactive attitude, qualities that are valuable to employers.

How to address personal development gaps positively on a resume?

If you took a gap year for personal development, you can highlight your skills and insights on your resume. For instance, traveling can enhance cultural awareness, adaptability, and communication skills. Pursuing a hobby might also demonstrate dedication, creativity, or leadership. Draw clear connections between these experiences and the job you're applying for, showing how they've contributed to your personal and professional growth.

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