How to Evaluate Employment Gaps on a Resume

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Looking Beyond the Gap

Have you ever come across a candidate while hiring who ticked all the right boxes, and yet you were left worried by a gap in their work history?

In the past, gaps in work history were always seen as a negative, often resulting in the resume not being considered regardless of other qualifications.

In today’s dynamic job market, we must ditch the one-size-fits-all approach and dig deeper into a candidate’s resume gaps. Understanding the nuances of employment gaps is crucial to avoid missing out on great candidates!

The following post will explore some best practices for effectively assessing these gaps on a resume.

The Importance of Keeping an Open Mind

Not Everyone Has the Same Linear Career Path

As we said, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when assessing resume gaps. Everyone has a unique career path.

There are endless reasons that could lead to an employment gap on someone’s resume. Such as industry changes, career pivots, personal matters, and further education to name a few examples that shouldn’t be seen as a negative.

The stigma that all employment gaps are bad won’t hold up in the modern job market. While there are certainly still resume gaps that are bad and warrant concern from an employer, it’s not as black and white as it once was.

The most important thing to remember is to hold off on judgments until you have more information.

Be Careful Not to Make Assumptions

If you jump to conclusions without doing your homework; you might miss out on some fantastic hires.

Everyone’s got their own unique career story, and as the one making the hiring decisions, it’s your job to dig deep and get to the bottom of their resume gaps.

The key is to approach every candidate with as little bias as possible. Your goal is to find out more about why the candidate has a gap in their work history.

If you don’t give them a chance to explain, you will never know how great they could have been!

Evaluate Every Candidate Equally

It’s important not to let employment gaps affect your interview decisions prematurely. If a candidate is a great fit and you are worried about the gap, invite them for an interview to learn more. After all, that is the whole point of a job interview!

Reserve your judgments until after you have had a chance to discuss the situation with the candidate.

Having an initially negative reaction to resume gaps will cause you to overlook valuable skills and experience that far outweigh any impact an employment gap could have.

The only part of the interview process that should change when interviewing someone with an employment gap is that you will ask them about it. Other than that, there should be no difference in how you approach the interview.

Communicate With the Candidate

Asking About Employment Gaps Professionally

Be sure to approach the topic with caution. While some people may share that they are furthering their education or traveling, others may have more personal matters they are reluctant to discuss.

Frame questions in a way that encourage candidates to share their story openly. Use open-ended questions that express your genuine interest without sounding judgemental.

As always, this process is meant to be a conversation, not an interrogation.

As a rule of thumb, if you have to pry they are probably not wanting to speak about it.

Digging Deeper vs. Letting It Go

It can be difficult to know if you should be digging deeper or letting it go when discussing a candidate’s resume gaps. Before you decide what to do you need to evaluate the context of the employment gap.

If the explanation aligns with the candidate’s overall career narrative and doesn’t raise concerns about their abilities, consider letting it go. However, if there are inconsistencies, it’s essential to dig deeper to ensure their credibility.

When you ask about the gap initially, most candidates will have prepared an answer for you. It’s up to you to read the room, but if the answer feels intentionally closed off, it’s usually best to respect that.

If they seem open to discussing it feel free to dig deeper and ask those burning questions. Just make sure they are relevant to the position.

What Not to Do When Discussing Employment Gaps

Like most interview questions, there are a few things you as the interviewer should avoid when discussing a candidate’s work history gaps.

Avoid making any rude/passive-aggressive remarks or expressing your disbelief in their explanations. Even if the reasoning they give you may seem outlandish, it’s never worth it to make it a big deal. Move on to the next part of the discussion and assess the situation after the interview.

It’s important to respect boundaries when discussing something that might be sensitive for the candidate. Maybe they got laid off or maybe they had a death in the family, it’s impossible for us to know the full story.

With that being said, don’t pry! If they don’t want to talk, respect their decision and move on to the next part of the interview.

Common Red Flags to Look Out For

One of the most important things that can help you decide if you should be concerned is patterns in the candidate’s work history. Frequent short-term employment, unexplained lengthy gaps, or vague explanations can all be indicators that there is more to the story.

1. Frequent Short-term Employment

If a candidate has a lot of short stints at companies followed by lengthy gaps in between it could be a sign of issues. If it is one or two shorter terms it might be a non-issue but still worth investigating. If it is more than two, it’s usually a sign that the common denominator is the candidate and red flags should start to raise.

An exception to this is when candidates are working temporary jobs. About Staffing often places great candidates in temporary roles every day.

2. Unexplained Lengthy Gaps

Any explanation is better than no explanation. Unless it is a personal matter, if the candidate freezes up or can’t provide an answer for their resume gap, it may be a bad sign.

Interesting Statistics on Employment Gaps

According to a recent survey, resume gaps are more common than you might think almost 70% of workers have experienced a gap in their employment at some point in their career.

Among those, nearly 39% attributed that gap to family responsibilities, highlighting that there are more than just negative reasons for taking a career break.

For many, those gaps create significant challenges in securing employment, as 60% of people with gaps on their resume find it harder to land their next job.

In the world of work, any gap over six months is considered significant. Less than six months is typically seen as a reasonable job-hunting period.

Over half of hirers (51%) said they are MORE likely to contact a candidate who openly discusses their resume gap over trying to hide it. This shows that honesty is highly valued when talking about career gaps.

To Wrap Up


With the insights shared in this blog, you can build a hiring process that’s not just good at evaluating resume gaps but also one that is fair to everyone involved—both your company and the candidates looking to work there.

We’re entering an age where we view employees as a whole, beyond just their job history.

Life can be unpredictable, and career paths aren’t always as linear as they used to be. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking exceptional employees just because you can’t understand their story.

If you want expert assistance in hiring and resume assessment, reach out to About Staffing at 403-508-1000 to kick-start your hiring journey today!

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Frequently Asked Questions


What is an acceptable gap to have on a resume?

Generally, a resume gap of 3 months or less is usually not a major concern for employers. But, if it extends beyond 6 months, employers may inquire about it, especially if you’re selected for an interview.

How do you explain a gap on your resume?

When you’re explaining a resume gap, just be honest and transparent. You should mention the reasons for the gap, but if it’s personal you don’t have to go into detail. Focusing on any relevant skills or experiences gained during the gap is a great way to turn it into a positive. Employers will appreciate your honesty and the ability to turn a gap into a positive learning experience.

How do you ask a candidate about a gap on their resume?

When you are addressing a resume gap with a candidate, be intentional but sensitive. Start by mentioning the gap and asking if they would like to explain the reason behind it. Use a respectful tone and open-ended questions to allow the candidate to share their story. If they don’t want to speak on it in detail be respectful and move on to the next question.