Ask an Expert: How to Explain Employment Gaps on a Resume

At AOL Jobs, we receive a lot of questions from readers asking how to address a significant gap in employment due to caring for a sick family member, coping with an extended illness or raising a family.

In this situation, it is best to be transparent and explain what you have been doing during this period of time. It is better to account for the time away from the work world on your resume than to neglect to reference the employment gap and let employers come to their own (and possibly incorrect) conclusions.

In addition, there are several strategies you can use to shift the focus away from the employment gap and toward your unique message of value. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Showcase unpaid experience.

Just because you didn't hold a paid position during the time you were not working doesn't mean you haven't done any work that has provided value to someone. Perhaps you helped a spouse or family member with business tasks or ran events at your children's school. Or maybe you did work at local community center or place of worship.

2. Focus on transferable skills.

Think about the skills you developed through these volunteer tasks. Perhaps you built up skills as a homemaker or volunteer in project management, event planning, administration, fund-raising, Web design, travel arrangements, teaching or cooking. These valuable skills are easily transferable to paid opportunities.

3. Don't forget to tout your past career experience.

Just because you haven't used a skill in a few years doesn't mean that the skill is obsolete. Describe what you did in your past jobs that is still relevant in the current market. For example, if you used quantitative customer service skills in your last position, these skills will still be relevant.

4. Find others who can sing your praises.

Gather testimonials from organizations where you have done volunteer work or from friends and family you may have helped with a project and include this information on your resume. These testimonials can showcase a candidate's personal and professional attributes in an authentic way and elevate your skill set in the eyes of the employer.

5. Embrace social media.

Make it easier for hiring managers and recruiters to find you by creating searchable online profiles on the top social media and online identity sites. You don't have to be currently working to have a profile on LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, or Google profiles.

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