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11/6/22 - Career challenge: How do you explain a six-month gap (or more) on your resume?

Here's how to present yourself in the best light if you have an employment gap 

If you’re currently in search of a job and there’s a gap on your resume that spans six months or more, you may be worried that this lapse in employment will raise red flags with potential employers.

It may indeed raise questions — but there's more nuance to the story than that.

Career gaps spiked 39% year-over-year in the year of 2020, according to data from LinkedIn.

The good news is that the data also revealed that 79% of hiring managers reported they would be willing to hire candidates with a career gap on their resumes.

"It’s not as unusual to have a gap in your resume in today’s workforce, and resume gaps aren’t as critical or frowned upon as they once were," John Feldmann, senior communications specialist at Insperity, based in Houston, Texas, told FOX Business.

He added, "Attitudes on gaps in employment have shifted" today, given that "many people dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic."

He said the reasons range from "job loss to health care concerns to child care responsibilities."

How do you respond if asked about a work gap?
While it’s important to address the reason for any lapse in employment, there isn’t a need to go into great detail, Feldmann advised.

Instead, he suggested that people focus on the productive ways they spent their time during the break.

For example, did you take classes or learn new skills?

Did you do volunteer work, network with others and/or read industry publications?

It is appropriate to share any of those enriching personal gains, he noted.

If you took a break for personal reasons, you can disclose that, too.

"If you were taking care of children or other family members, you can explain that you were performing unpaid caregiving duties," Kevin Wu, CEO of Pathrise in San Francisco, California, told FOX Business.

"And if you were between jobs," he also said, "you can say that you took some time off to regroup before making your next career move."

Wu agreed with Feldmann about highlighting any skills or experience gained during time off from work on your resume.

"This will show that you were still actively engaged in learning and development, even when you were not working," he said.

"Whatever the reason for a resume gap, there is no need to be ashamed of it. Be honest and upfront about it, and you will likely find that employers understand."

What if the reasons for a work gap are less than favorable?
If you were terminated or went through a layoff and it took a while to find work — or if you’re still looking for a job — should these issues be disclosed?

Honesty is the best policy, but boundaries are OK, too, say professionals.

While you should "always be honest about the reason for a gap," said Feldmann, "going into detail is unnecessary."

If your layoff or termination was a direct result of the pandemic, Feldmann said it’s helpful to mention this, as those extreme circumstances impacted millions of people.

"Otherwise, you can mention that your last company wasn’t the best fit for you or that you and your employer had different expectations," he said.

"It’s more important to focus on the solution rather than the problem and direct attention to your experience, skills acquired during the break and what you can do for a prospective employer going forward."

Try this strategy as you discuss the work gap
One effective strategy to paint an employment gap in a positive light, said Feldmann, is to address it in a cover letter, as opposed to using the limited space on your resume.

"By doing this, you can spin the narrative in a favorable direction, while also being upfront about any concerns the employer may have," he said.

Here are the best ways to do this, according to Feldmann.

1. Focus on your experience and qualifications that make you a good fit for the job.

2. Emphasize your eagerness to rejoin the workforce.

3. Demonstrate how you remained active during the gap (classes, new skills, freelance or volunteer work, etc.).

What not to say about an employment gap
While a six-month break in employment may seem like a long time, it’s still a reasonable time period to spend on personal development or a much-needed break caused by burnout, said Feldmann.

As mentioned earlier, the pandemic affected the workforce dramatically, so many employees needed time to recover, he said.

The rules changed, in other words, about an acceptable time length for a break from the workforce.

"As long as candidates are able to discuss how they spent the six-month gap and their experience and qualifications are a good fit for the position, then employers shouldn’t have cause for concern," he noted.

What may raise red flags, however, is pinning the blame on others for your own work history.

"Red flags are raised when employees complain about and/or blame a previous manager or company for not helping them to be successful," Jâlie Cohen, group SVP of human resources for Americas at the Adecco Group, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told FOX Business.

Cohen says this puts the potential future employer on notice that workers don’t hold themselves accountable — and is looking for the company to make them successful instead of taking the reins of their own career.

Another red flag is raised is when people focus on what they need the prospective employer to do for them — yet never engage on how they can add value to the team, said Cohen.

"This is a partnership that requires collaboration, accountability and transparency from both parties to be successful," she said.