Back to Career Corner

How To Explain Your Unemployment Gap

By Dan Gomez-Palacio
Director of the Grossnickle Career Services Center
Published Winter 2015-16, Affinity magazine

An employment gap is a period of time when a job applicant is not employed. Perhaps you stayed home with the kids or a medical issue kept you out of the workforce. Were you laid off from your job or decided to go to school full time at a later age? Whatever the case, there are many reasons a job-seeker might have an employment gap. Here are a few tips to help ensure your resumé stands out.

    • Use a “functional resumé” format. Functional resumés focus on the applicant’s skills and accomplishments, rather than a chronological listing of employment. This will de-emphasize any gaps in your employment and highlight what you bring to the employer.
    • Use volunteer and community involvement to bridge time gaps. Remember that the word “experience” is broad. Any experience where you are gaining professional skills can go on the resumé, including coaching a youth softball league, organizing a church fundraiser or volunteering at a local school.
    • Let the cover letter explain. Resumés don’t really give applicants a chance to go into detail about gaps. Instead, use a cover letter to talk through why you weren’t working and what you were doing during your downtime. Be positive and talk about learning opportunities as well as skill growth you have had during the time you weren’t employed.
    • Double check your work. Have your resumé reviewed to ensure there are no typos, experiences are worded well and your positive skills and attributes stand out. More than anything, this will help your resumé get noticed.

Dan Gomez-Palacio is the director of the Grossnickle Career Services Center. Career counseling, networking and resumé assistance are available free of charge to all students and alumni. To get started, contact Career Services at (800) 231-2391 ext. 7425 or visit