In June of 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that somewhere between 30 and 40 million Americans had been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chaos entered the labor market. Businesses closed their doors. Workers were furloughed at rates never seen before. It was, in short, a terrible time to be an employee.  

But the normalcy of these layoffs didn’t change how Americans feel about being unemployed. According to a LinkedIn Survey, 84% of workers interviewed said that they think there is a stigma associated with being out of work.

Now that the worst of the storm is over and Americans are starting to enter the workforce again, it is time to show that resume gap to the world. Can you find a way to rise above your employment break? Is it too late to turn your resume gap into something productive? How can you explain yourself in the most effective way possible, both in writing and during interviews?  

Don’t worry- we're here to help.

On Your Resume 

Handling an employment gap can be a bit awkward when it comes to resumes. Thankfully there are a few easy ways to properly describe your resume gap in writing that won’t necessarily make you an unattractive candidate to employers.

Cover Letter

According to Forbes, a great place to explain your resume gap is on your cover letter. Resumes are supposed to be clean, quick, and concise. There isn’t necessarily room for a paragraph-sized explanation of a gap of employment there. Cover letters have a bit more flexibility and freedom. Figure out how you’re going to explain your employment gap on your cover letter or resume. Hiring managers will also want to know what you’ve done during your time out of work. Have you volunteered anywhere? Taken any online courses? Gone back to school? Were you freelancing or working on your network? If you haven’t done these things already, start now! Not only do they look good on resumes and provide a valid explanation for your employment gap, but they will make you look more qualified compared to your applicant pool.


However, not every hiring manager will read your cover letter. You will still need to format your resume in a way that makes up for or explains your employment gap. 

One way you can format your resume in a creative and effective way is to highlight your qualifications. Write a brief summary of your skills and talents at the top of your resume. That way, hiring managers will see your potential first, and may not care about the gap in your resume by the time they read your employment history at the end.  

Forbes also says that it is common practice to delete jobs off your resume that lasted less than three months. If you clean up your resume like this, your employment history may look less like a gap, and more like a simplified list of the most important jobs you’ve held during your working lifetime.  

In an Interview

 Now it’s time for the most nerve-wracking part: the interview. While it can be scary or even embarrassing to have to explain your break in employment out loud, look at the bright side. If you got the interview, clearly the hiring manager believes they can work with your resume gap!

You will need to prepare for the interview. The Balance Careers gives a step-by-step list on what to expect, how to prepare, and what to say during an interview when you have an employment gap:  

Be Aware of What Interviewers Will Ask 

During your interview, employers will want to know when you left your last job, how you left it, and why. Be prepared to answer these questions and professionally and honestly as possible.

Confidence and Practice

It’s true what they say- practice does make perfect! Work with a friend or family member to practice a mock interview. It may seem silly at first, but the more you practice, the more confident you will sound. Resume gap or not, employers are always looking for confident workers.

Use Your Cover Letter as a Starting Point

Aren’t you glad you wrote that cover letter? Repeating what you said in your cover letter is a good way to keep your story straight, and to give you a script so you don’t get too nervous during interviews.  

Emphasize the Good Things

No matter what, make sure to emphasize your accomplishments prior to and during your employment gap. How did your company benefit from you? Did you receive any awards? What did you achieve during your time off?

Bring Recommendations

A great way to combat a resume gap is by bringing in strong recommendations. You can use a past employer’s or coworkers to support your resume gap explanations, and to prove that you have been and can be a great employee. 

As long as you follow those simple steps, you’re bound to have a successful interview. Being aware, confident, and prepared is much more important to hiring managers than whether or not you have an employment gap. 


Explaining Common Resume Gaps

People experience employment gaps for all sorts of reasons. Depending on your situation, you will need to handle your interview a little differently. Here are a few tips for handling a few of these scenarios in an interview:

Personal Reasons

Many people leave their jobs to take care of family members, grieve for a loved one, or because they were incapacitated themselves. Mention these things very briefly. Your interviewer doesn’t need to be bogged down by the details, and you are by no means obligated to share your personal life with them.

Something Fun

Did you take time off to go on a trip or explore the world? It’s fine to mention that in an interview, but you will need to prove that you kept up your work ethic during your employment gap. Did you work on any projects during that time? How have the experiences you’ve had added to your skill as an employee?

Layoff or Termination

If you were laid off from your job, don’t worry. Being terminated doesn’t automatically mean that you are a bad employee, and hiring managers know this. If there was a reduction in the workforce that was out of your control, make sure to state that in the interview. Having a good relationship with your past employer- even if you were terminated- is always a good sign in an interview.

Remember: between 30 and 40 million American workers were laid off during the pandemic. Chances are you aren’t the first employee your hiring manager has looked at with a significant resume gap, and you won’t be the last. The best thing you can do is to come into the interview with confidence in your skills and strengths, and to be honest with your future employer. 

Job searching with a resume gap can be stressful, but it is not impossible. With these tips in your back pocket, you’re bound to find a job you love.

Nervous about re-entering the workforce? We have you covered. From short-term contracts to long-term placements, learn how Nesco Resource can help you find the right fit, right now.