Best Way to Explain a Gap Year on Your Resume

Sean Ahern
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If you have a large gap of time on your resume in which you were unemployed, you’ll most likely need to explain why during an interview. There’s no need to panic though, because it’s actually pretty common. Life gets in the way of work and sometimes you need the time to focus on more important things, and employers understand that. Although, if you were fired for doing something outright egregious, it may be a bit more difficult to explain.

Having a gap year on your resume doesn’t insinuate laziness whatsoever, especially if you have a reasonable explanation. However, if you took a year off to “enjoy being lazy” much like fictional character Eric Forman (protagonist of Fox Network’s hit series That 70s Show) then you may have a more difficult time convincing the employer of the legitimacy of your hiatus. Let’s go over some common reasons why most people have gaps in their employment history and how to explain each scenario to your potential employer. You’ve most likely experienced at least one.

Reaching for a competitive position: If you’re dead set on working a specific position that you’re somewhat underqualified for, or a position in a highly competitive industry, you most likely will be applying and interviewing over a long period of time and experiencing a lot of rejection. I myself tried stepping into advertising right of school, arguably one of the most competitive industries to get a job in, and created a one-and-a-half-year gap in my employment history. However, when I’m asked about the gap, I explain how passionate I was and how badly I wanted to work in that industry, which is especially impressive if the job you’re applying for happens to be in that same industry. You could say something like: “There is a one-year gap in my employment history because I tenaciously tried to secure an agency position, so I’m ecstatic to be sitting in an agency today interviewing for this job.”

Taking care of your family: This is one of the more common reasons why most people have a gap in their employment history, and also one of the most sensible reasons as well. If you have to take time off to remain in the household in order to take care of your children, or if you need to care for a family member who is sick, the employer will certainly understand. If they don’t accept that as a justifiable excuse, then you probably don’t want to be working for them anyway.

Starting your own business venture: A lot of highly ambitious people try to start their own businesses, which on average fail right around a year unfortunately. You may start a business and spend a year working on building it from the ground up, trying to get it ready for its “launch”, only to have things fall apart. (If I’m sounding pessimistic, it’s because I attempted this myself.) Explain to the employer that you had a dream to own your own business and worked hard at it for a year; they’ll view it as a demonstration of work ethic and drive.

If you have a gap in your employment history, it’s probably for a good reason. Try to remember that we are all human, and that whoever is interviewing you will more than likely understand.

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  • Marissa B.
    Marissa B.

    This is a perfect tips to restart and go on with your life. Yes, anyone will fall in a different situations beyond our control. Being honest will make yourself more comfortable and realistic in a different situations. What is important is being positive, always think good thing will happen to your life. And don't forget to acknowledge God for everything.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Dave L thanks for your comment! It's always nice to hear from a "Boomer" who has a positive message. I have to agree since I am in the age range. You can't go into this with a defeatist attitude thinking no one will hire you because you are of a certain age. I just read an article the other day that indicated that companies are realizing that they made a mistake by dismissing the senior employees in favor of millennials. Now they are attempting to hire the more senior employee to assist the younger one. All of the experience is in the older worker and companies have finally started to realize this. Hopefully that means that they will hire a mix of emplioyees since each group can learn from the other.

  • Emmanuel D.
    Emmanuel D.

    Very helpful tips

  • Dave L.
    Dave L.

    Rich M. I'm 58 and am getting no push back regarding my age. First, you comment here reflects a self-defeating attitude - "They don't want the older generation." Second, if you have stayed up-to-date with your profession and the technology used, they'll forget about your age. While Millennials may get maligned for fair or unfair reasons, the main focus most of them have in the workplace is winning in the marketplace. Anyone who can help them get there is welcome on their team. Know your stuff, be a team player, and have a good sense of humor about your age (I've only been called "Boomer" once that I know of and it was clearly in jest).

  • Rich M.
    Rich M.

    It does and I will give a look. Thank you.

  • ANA S.
    ANA S.

    I have a one year gap on my resume. That's because I moved to Florida from Boston and I've been exploring and enjoying my new life here in Florida. Now after year and so much excitement I'm ready to go back to work. But then again all my jobs were in Boston whatever job I find now will be my first one in Florida.

  • Cindy M.
    Cindy M.

    Rich M. Have you tried any resources on the aarp website,that may be of some help to you.It's worth a try.Hope this helps

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Rich M thanks for your comment. There are so many reasons why you are not hearing back from an employer. I did a quick search on the Internet to help you and found tons of articles that might help answer this and guide you on what to do next. As long as you are searching, a hiring manager wouldn't let your gap be the be all, end all. He will take it into consideration. All you can do is keep searching.

  • Rich M.
    Rich M.

    I have been laid off for over a year and had a tough time finding something. I turned 60 back in October of this year and that kind of holds me back. They don't want the older generation, because they think they won't be there long. That might be true, but what do you do if you can't get anything? I know what I'm going to do, but not everyone else is like me. I want to work, but how can I? What if you're laid off? Is that an acceptable answer? Will they look at that as you being lazy and don't want to work or what?

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Mark H. thanks for your comment. There are many reasons why a hiring manager would ask but off the top of my head, they want to know why you had these gaps because - well, they are thinking about hiring you and why hire you if the reason for the gaps has not been resolved? They want to make sure that, when you come to work, you are all there - not half there and half with the situation that caused the gaps in the first place.

  • Mark  H.
    Mark H.

    Best Way to Explain a Gap Year on Your Resume
    If you have a large gap of time on your resume in which you were unemployed, you’ll most likely need to explain why during an interview.... ... ?.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Suzanne S. thanks for your comment. You don't have to go into detail and tell the interviewer your business. Simply say you were taking care of a family member but that situation has been resolved. That way they know that you will now be available to concentrate on work. Be careful though. If you come off with an attitude towards the interviewer when asked about the gap, you kind of seal your fate on that position. They aren't trying to dig into your personal affairs. Only want to find out if the issue that caused the gap has been resolved. Why should they hire you only to lose you again because the personal situation was not resolved? Anyone else want to weigh in?

  • SUZANNE S.
    SUZANNE S.

    Damn right! People, including those interviewing you, do not need to know your business and no, I will not account for every day/week/year I did not work. That is MY business!

  • Daniel D.
    Daniel D.

    Everybody does not need to know your business keep it short and sweet and move on in your life.

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