While the actual unemployment rate is notoriously hard to pin down, one thing’s for sure: many people will go through a period of unemployment at some point in their lives. And those periods don’t just make it hard to pay bills in the meantime—they can also make it harder to get a new job.
The dreaded “employment gap” on your resume can be a red flag to potential employers who wonder what you were up to during that time. But it doesn’t have to be a red flag. If you know the right approach, you can use your resume to explain your experience—even the gaps—in a way that shows you’re the ideal candidate for the job.
How can you use your resume to explain unemployed periods? Here’s how to spin it to get the job you want.
Fill Your Gaps Wisely
If you find yourself unemployed, now or in the future, this is a great time to fill that gap with a productive experience that you can put on your resume.
There are lots of ways to advance your career or skills without actually having a job. Take this time to volunteer in your industry, or sign up for a free online course to grow your skillset. Now, you’ll have relevant experience that you can add to your resume for the period when you were unemployed.
If you can, add the date of this non-work experience when you list it on your resume (such as giving the date of completion for your online course). That way, you can signal to potential employers that even when you weren’t officially working, you were still working on your career.
Loosen up Your Dates
If you already have past employment gaps that you didn’t fill with other valuable experience, you can still make them less prominent on your resume. Consider listing your dates in a way that’s a little more flexible. Instead of listing the month and year that you started and ended each job, just list the year. That way, even if you were unemployed for several months within a year, it won’t be glaringly obvious.
Switch Your Format
RELATED: How to Write Your First Resume
If you have a chronological resume format, your employment dates (and any gaps in them) are front and center. Changing to a functional or hybrid resume pushes that information further down the page, or gets rid of it altogether.