Careers

How to explain an employment gap on your resume

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Whether you took a six month sabbatical to travel the world, a year off to care for a sick family member or simply experienced months of unemployment, hiring managers will want to know why there's a gap on your resume.

Your initial instinct may be to fudge the truth. However, Amanda Augustine, a career advice expert for TopResume, says you should always be honest and transparent with employers about why you took a break from the job market.

"If you are asked about the time between jobs, be as straightforward and succinct as possible," she tells CNBC Make It. "Whenever possible, discuss what you achieved during that time to keep your finger on your industry's pulse to maintain, or even strengthen, your skills."

For example, she says if you participated in any events conducted by professional organizations in your field, then discuss that. Or if you did any relevant volunteer, freelance or contract work during your time off, then make employers aware of that. But whatever you do, don't go blank when an interviewer asks you for an explanation.

"The worst thing you can do is have no explanation at all," says Augustine. "You may be unable to say you were volunteering or consulting during that time, but you want to tell the hiring manager something reasonable."

Even if it's unrelated to the position you are interviewing for, she says the last thing employers want to hear from a potential candidate is that they were at home twiddling their thumbs.

"While job-hunting, they'd rather hear you took a gig driving for Lyft, traveled extensively to experience other cultures, or took a course at a local college than to hear you weren't doing anything except applying to jobs during your time off," she says.

If your reason for being unemployed is because of something personal like a medical condition, Augustine warns that you should not delve into too many details about the issue.

"The hiring manager doesn't need to know that personal information and it won't help you land the job," she says.

For those currently out of work who are looking for ways to keep their skills fresh, take the time to research local professional groups or charity organizations that will help you leverage your marketable job skills. Augustine also suggests doing freelance work, even if it's pro bono, as unpaid experience can be listed on your resume just like any other job.

Additionally, if you're really concerned about how hiring managers will view the gaps on your resume, Augustine says you can change your dates of employment to include only the year and not both the month and the year.

Regardless of your reasoning for leaving the workforce, the best way to impress a potential employer is to be honest about your time off, and emphasize how you can still be an asset to their company.

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