Resume Writing for a Year of Missing Work History

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Aug 29

It can be nerve wracking to try to explain to a possible employer why you haven’t worked in over a year. If you only have gaps for a couple of months here and there, you probably don’t need to worry.

However, if you have several months or years in your recent history with long periods of unemployment, you might want to come up with a strategy. Regardless of your reasons for not being employed, extended periods of missed work may give the impression that you are not a stable worker. That’s why longer periods of time without employment might need to be addressed.

What Modern Employers Are Looking For

Before you get started, you should know that there’s a 1 in 5 chance that your recruiter will make up their mind about interviewing you within 60 seconds of reading your resume. So, you’ll need to apply what you learn here to the employment gap, but make sure that your resume has the wow effect.

How Do You Write About the Gap?

There are different ways to handle this situation. Some people ignore the situation and let the chips fall where they may. Others know that they need to give a reason as to why there are gaps in their work timeline. Here are some ideas to help you through this situation:

  1. Give an explanation.

The standard for resume writing a resume is to list your employment history, with the most recent job first, in descending order. This is not the case if you’re only now re-entering the workforce with a gap spanning a year or more. One way to handle this is to list your reasoning as a footnote at the bottom of your resume. Just a short note explaining that you were recovering from an illness, taking care of a family member, or some other legitimate reason will explain the time gap in an easy-to-understand manner.

  1. Include another activity during that time.

If you don’t have a logical explanation, include some type of relevant experience that you gained during that time. This could include special projects, continuing education, community involvement, or even volunteer work. This will avoid the gap period and show that while you weren’t actually employed, you were busy getting experience and knowledge. According to Monster, this is a great way to cover up gaps in time on your resume.

  1. Use a different resume style.

While the typical resume has jobs listed in chronological order, you can instead create a functional resume. Some employers don’t care for these types of resumes, as they feel that you may be hiding something. However, if your work experience is extremely sketchy, you might want to give it a try. According to JobSearch, a functional resume will focus on your experience and skills rather than your work history.

  1. A resume is different than a work history.

Keep in mind that a resume is basically a piece to market yourself and your experience. Therefore, short-term jobs don’t need to be included, as they may actually raise more questions. The only time you need to list every job is if you are asked to fill out a work history as part of a job application.

  1. Include an explanation in your cover letter.

Rather than trying to explain things right on your resume, you do have the option to leave the gaps, and then explain things in your cover letter. You should not sound apologetic or negative, as there’s nothing wrong with your reasons. Confidently stating the facts as to why you weren’t working will allow an employer to understand the holes in your timeline. According to LiveCareer, a simple explanation in your cover letter is all that is usually needed.


All employers are different, and some will care more than others about gaps in your work history. Be honest, but don’t sabotage yourself by including information that might hurt you. With good references and a positive attitude, gaps in your work history will likely be overlooked or ignored.

This is a guest post by Marry McAleavey. Marry is a career consultant and a content manager at the essay service. She enjoys helping cubicle workers make their lives easier and more fun.