How To Explain Your Resume Gaps To Employers. 5 strategies that will give yourself a fighting chance at getting the job.

December 16 2013 by Borja Saldana

You have a gap in employment that’s wider than the Grand Canyon. Whether it’s because you’ve taken time off voluntarily to care for your child or you’re one of the long-term unemployed, there are strategies that can help you get hired. You’ve been a stay-at-home parent. Consider applying for jobs where your homemaking skills would be useful: budgeting, coping with the full range of children’s issues, having to be a self-starter. Of course, those skills are useful in child-related jobs: in schools, child care, pediatrician’s offices, and children’s stores. But they’re also applicable, for example, to careers as a manager, coordinator, administrative assistant, and event planner. Cite those transferable skills in your applications, interviews, and networking. Also tout the transferable skills you used in any volunteer work.

You’ve been playing around. For the last year or four, you’ve decided to, say, travel around the world or just goof off. How do you explain that to an employer you’re trying to convince to pay you to work? You might try something like, “I figured that while I was young and unencumbered, I’d do those things that many older people regret not having done: travel, build a boat, do volunteer work. But now, I’m truly ready to get serious about my career. Here is what I bring to the table (insert.) Might I be possibly be of help to you?” The wrong employers will blow you off; a right one will at least interview you.

You’ve been self-employed. Employers worry that self-employed people will be unhappy having a boss. Preempt the objection. For example: “Five years of self-employment made me realize the advantages of being employed in a organization. I’m looking forward to it. Having been in charge could be a plus in working for you. I am, as they say, a self-starter and can be intrapreneurial, identifying new profit centers for your organization.”

You’ve been ill. Let’s say you’ve battled cancer or severe depression for the last two years and can’t claim you’re cured. In addition to tapping your network for leads, you might ask your doctor or nurses. They likely have particular empathy for people in your situation, have bonded with you, and know lots of people. If I had a disability that would affect my ability to do the job, along with my strengths, I’d disclose the disability to prospective employers. The wrong employers will reject me, a right one will accept me, the kind of employer I’d want to work for.

You’ve been unemployed a long time. If employers knew you’ve had a helluva time trying to find a job, they might view you as too-often-rejected merchandise. Sure, it helps to do a fill-in activity that would impress employers: training that gave you up-to-date skills in your desired field, relevant volunteer work, etc. But that may not be enough.