If you are one of 14.8 million Americans who are unemployed, you may be dealing with how to explain your absence from the working world to potential employers. No hiring manager likes to see big gaps between jobs, but there are several good explanations that you can offer to minimize the job-gaps on your resume. Follow these tips to avoid gaping holes in your resume. (Learn more in Top 8 Ways To Get Your Resume Thrown Out.)

IN PICTURES: 6 Career-Killing Facebook Mistakes

You can adjust the formatting of dates to eliminate the appearance of obvious unemployment streaks. For example, change any "Month/Year" references to state only the year.

For example:

Server: June 2003 – April 2005

Sales Associate: February 2006 – May 2007

Changes to:

Server: 2003 – 2005

Sales Associate: 2006 – 2007

Suddenly, that 10-month period of unemployment doesn't seem so obvious. Of course, if you're asked for particular dates, you're busted, but this method reduces the chance of having to explain prolonged unemployment.

Fill In the Blanks
If you do have significant gaps in your resume, it isn't the end of the world. Consider what you did spend your time doing during those periods. Did you volunteer, learn new skills or were there extenuating circumstances that kept you out of the workplace? This can all have a place on your resume if it adequately explains/justifies a prolonged absence.

For example, upon graduating, you may not have been able to get a job right away, but if you volunteered in a position related to your desired field, the mention of it turns a negative gap into a positive sign of devotion to your career path. If you were downsized but spent your time out of work taking classes or freelancing to update your skills, that's another great attribute. Listing these activities helps to paint you as a proactive person who, even if down on your luck job-wise, continues to actively seek ways to improve.

IN PICTURES: 6 Ways To Recession-Proof Your Financial Job

Streamlined Resumes
Don't feel like you have to account for 100% of your time from your childhood on. It is perfectly acceptable (and in many cases, in your best interest) to keep your listed work experience to only those jobs which are relevant to the position you are applying for. If you were out of work for a year during high school, this isn't going to be a big strike against you. Just be sure to include any activities, such as education, that would keep you from working.

Answer Honestly …
If you were let go because of a problem with your performance, and your interviewer asks for specifics, be honest. Explain what the problem was, but focus on what you did to resolve the issue or to ensure it didn't happen again. If you were out of work because of health or personal issues or because of a personal crisis (a parent taking ill or passing away, for example), mention it succinctly and again, focus on what you have done to remedy the problem (or how you are keeping it under control) and how the experience has improved you. Don't feel like you have to volunteer this information, unless it is an extremely obvious gap on your resume and even then, be concise – your employer can always ask if they need more details. (Learn more in 6 Tips For A No-Experience Resume.)

… But Don't Play the Blame Game
Always answer questions concerning sensitive issues diplomatically - no bad-mouthing former employers! Doing so will make your interviewer wonder if you'll do the same thing to them in the future. Before you even submit your resume, make a list of all the gaps you are concerned about and write out what happened, how you resolved it and why it won't happen again. If there was an issue with a former co-worker or boss, don't name names. If there was a personal issue, don't go into detail – simply state the basic facts of what happened and when.

Remember, employers are looking for stable employees, but that doesn't mean issues won't arise. A stable employee is one who can handle the hurdles life puts up and learn from the challenges they presented.

The Bottom Line
Be upfront and confident - life happens. Employers aren't looking for someone who never experiences challenges; rather, they want someone who is capable of handling them. More often than not, the gaps in your resume are nothing to be ashamed of. Just make sure you highlight the positive from every situation. (For more, check out 7 Ways Your Resume Dates You.)

For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: The Beginning Of A Foreclosure Crisis?

Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    Insider's Guide To The Top U.S. Business Schools

    The best business school for you depends on your skills, career goals and interests. We help future MBA's make a more informed choice.
  2. Personal Finance

    10 Habits of Successful People

    10 of the most-often cited habits of people who have enjoyed success in business and in life.
  3. Savings

    5 Ways To Be Irreplaceable At Work

    Companies most value five certain behaviors, and the employees who exhibit them establish themselves as essential to an organization.
  4. Entrepreneurship

    5 Signs You’re About To Be Fired

    Often the signs of an imminent firing are subtle. Keep these five in mind.
  5. Economics

    What Does a Relationship Manager Do?

    A firm’s relationship manager works to maintain positive relationships with its customers and partner firms.
  6. Personal Finance

    10 Tips for Strategic Networking

    Learn the rules of networking so you can operate like a pro. After all, maintaining a strong network is essential in today's job environment.
  7. Professionals

    Career Advice: Investment Banking Vs. Law

    Learn some of the most important differences between a career in investment banking and law, and figure out which career suits you better.
  8. Investing News

    3 Stocks to Play a Falling Unemployment Rate

    Three stocks to consider as the unemployment rate falls.
  9. Entrepreneurship

    A How-To Guide to Being a Venture Capitalist

    So, you want to be a venture capitalist? Here's what it takes (besides capital).
  10. Entrepreneurship

    The Top 5 Under-the-Radar Cities for Job Seekers

    Don't be misled by 'Top 10' lists that rank cities purely on job growth. These cities get top marks for income growth and other key factors.
  1. Does a financial advisor need an MBA?

    Obtaining a license as a financial adviser does not require an Master's of Business Administration (MBA) degree. The Certified ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are the best free online calculators for calculating my taxable income?

    Free online calculators for determining your taxable income are located at Bankrate.com, TaxACT.com and Moneychimp.com. Determining ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What economic indicators are important to consider when investing in the retail sector?

    The unemployment rate and Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rank as two of the most important economic indicators to consider ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does comprehensive income get reported on my 1040?

    As of 2015, on the standard IRS Form 1040, your comprehensive or total income is calculated through lines 7-22. This is different ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How can an investment banker switch to a career in corporate finance?

    It's pretty easy for an investment banker to switch to a career in corporate finance. The career skills are easily transferable, ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How do I get started with a career in asset management?

    The asset management industry has a variety of different career paths. Depending on what asset management area you would ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  2. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  3. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
  4. Cost Of Funds

    The interest rate paid by financial institutions for the funds that they deploy in their business. The cost of funds is one ...
  5. Cost Accounting

    A type of accounting process that aims to capture a company's costs of production by assessing the input costs of each step ...
  6. Capitalized Cost

    An expense that is added to the cost basis of a fixed asset on a company's balance sheet. Capitalized Costs are incurred ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!