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4 Tips On Explaining That Awkward Gap In Your Employment History

Bypass the side-eyes and explain yo' self with ease.

Workin' Girl

One of my closest friends got laid off from her job because they were downsizing and it took her a little over two years to find a full-time job. In between that time, she was working a few jobs here and there just to pay the bills and have food. While the small jobs gave her some kind of financial peace, they were definitely too small in her opinion to put on her resume.

Because of that, the longer it took for her to find a full-time job, the wider her employment gap looked on her resume. This caused hiring managers to throw major side-eyes at her application and it affected her confidence when she did earn an interview.

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Just like my friend, because the job search market is so crowded and competition is real, it's not uncommon for you to have that awkward gap in your work history. If you're struggling with this, keep reading for ways you can explain the gap on your resume in your next interview. But first, before you dig into the gems, one quick note:

Don't stress about every single employment gap that you have! Many people don't really understand what an employment gap is and often their confusion results in self-sabotage. Typically, if you've only been unemployed for six months or less, it is generally OK for it to reflect that way on your resume. Hiring managers will instead safely assume that you were just job searching at the time.

Also, how long ago is the employment gap that you're stressing about on your resume? Is it over seven years old? If so, I wouldn't sweat it. If you've had ample job experience since then, it may not be worth discussing on your resume.

How To Explain A Gap In Employment History To An Interviewer

1.Tell the truth, but not the whole truth.

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When listing dates on your resume, you can opt-out listing the month/year if you were in a position for over a year. For example, you could say "2017-2019" (instead of July 2017-September 2019) for a position. Then, if your next job began in September 2019, you can list it as "2019-Present". This type of formatting will make your employment gap less obvious.

2.Focus on the positive.

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Yes, I get it sis; during the time you were unemployed, your bank account dwindled but maybe other things blossomed during this period.

While you weren't working full-time, did you learn new skills, take on some freelancing gigs, or help a friend out with his or her business? Whatever you did, list that on your resume as either work or volunteer experience. Even though it wasn't full-time work, it shows that you stayed busy in spite of your unemployment and that you didn't let your situation bring you down or keep you from growing professionally.

3.Be honest.

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For some recruiters, it's easy to spot when someone isn't being honest, so instead of letting that keep you from your next, big thing, just tell your truth.

Without oversharing (because you don't want to keep the focus on your unemployment), be open and if you're asked, tell the hiring manager why you took the time off. While you're doing so, emphasize on what skills you learned and what experiences you gained during your employment gap. If you can, make sure that the skills and experiences you discuss are applicable to the job that you're applying for.

4.Be confident.

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When you're talking about your employment gap, it's critical that you are 100% confident and don't show uncertainty or feelings of despair. If you come off as hesitant or diffident, it'll only project those same feelings about you onto the hiring manager. Before you interview, gain your confidence by verbally practicing your explanation, and perfecting your pitch as much as you need to.

While gaps in employment can be challenging to discuss and stressful to think about, if you practice your pitch, are confident and honest, it'll ease your stress. In return, it'll also effectively turn the conversation with the hiring manager to more about what makes you amazing and less about your time of unemployment.

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A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

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A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

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