Filling the Employment Gaps in Your Résumé

More than 90% of senior executives reported they would be concerned if a job candidate had long involuntary periods of unemployment according to a 2008 survey by placement firm OfficeTeam (Menlo Park, CA). Finding a new job fast, especially in a recession is no easy trick. So what can you do to prevent employment gaps appearing in your employment history?

Resist the temptation to “fudge” your dates of employment by adding a few months to your last job to make the gap disappear, advises Stephen Viscusi, author of the book “Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Simple Strategies to Ride Out the Rough Times and Come Out on Top at Work” (Collins Business, 2008). Potential employers often contact former employers to verify dates of employment. If that information doesn’t match what’s in your résumé, most employers will immediately eliminate you from consideration.

Instead, keep up your skills by taking some courses. For example, if you are an analytical chemist, you might take a short course in a new analytical technique growing in popularity. This could significantly strengthen your position in the job market. You could also take courses to strengthen some of your soft skills or shift your career in a new direction. Online business skills courses from ACS and Harvard Business Publishing can help you do this at

You could also do some volunteer work in your field. Consider reconnecting with a former research advisor and working in his laboratory. Even if you don’t get paid, you could still work part-time to stay active in the field. Recent graduates might contact former academic research advisors and get permission to take the lead on writing research papers on unreported aspects of their graduate or post-doctoral work. Another possibility is to write a review paper, perhaps with your former research advisor.

Both recent, and not-so-recent graduates, could do volunteer work for the American Chemical Society or other professional organizations. Such work can put you in contact with people who could help in your job hunt. In particular, organizing a symposium could help you contact leaders in your field.

Mid-career chemists with some name recognition in their field could work as consultants. However, this should consist of more than just getting some business cards printed. Potential employers may ask you for the names of some of your clients. If you are consulting, treat it like any other job and list projects and accomplishments on your résumé. A good way to support your part-time consulting is to present papers at conferences and attend local ACS meetings where you can network with potential consulting clients as well as people who could be helpful to your job hunt.

Write a blog that’s related to your field. You could use your blog to support your consulting work. During employment interviews you can point to this as an accomplishment.

A temporary staffing firm can help you find temporary assignments while you’re looking for a full-time job.

Don’t be afraid to include these activities in your résumé and cover letter. Such activities show you have drive, initiative and creativity.

To make these strategies work best, use these ideas as soon as you lose your job or even before.


Full-time science writer John Borchardt is an ACS Career Consultant and certified Workshop Presenter. As an industrial chemist he holds 30 U.S. patents and written more than 130 peer-reviewed technical articles.

9 Responses to Filling the Employment Gaps in Your Résumé

  1. great points, i love the consulting work supported by a industry blog, who knows a future boss may enjoy reading your daily/weekly rants about your industry.

  2. Great points on continuing education or volunteer work. But if your resume has some gaps, just be honest with it rather go polluting your profile with extended gates and you’re out of the job search in just minutes.

  3. Teena Rose says:

    Even a bad job is a good job by today’s standards. But jobseekers are wise to take a lesson from this job market; don’t leave one job unless you have another lined up.

    Of course, you could have been laid off or fired, which creates an unexpected gap in employment history.

    “Resist the temptation to “fudge” your dates of employment … ” states Stephen Viscusi. Know how to handle such things, so you don’t have to. =-]

    First, jobseekers don’t need to appear perfect, because well, we’re not perfect! Hiring managers understand that job candidates will have date gaps, especially with the state of the current job market.

    The next time you’re at a job-search event, or simply having a barbecue with your extended family, ask around at how many of those present had time in between jobs. You’ll be amazed at how few have flawless, gapless work histories.

    Don’t sweat (what really is) the small stuff.

    Second, for the employment gap that just bugs ‘ya, think about changing your resume around — especially if the current layout draws attention to that gap. Generally, readers proceed to read top to bottom or from the back to the front (I’m one of these; don’t ask me why I do it). People usually don’t go to the middle and proceed to the back or maybe to the top.

    A combination style resume might just be the answer to making the resume top heavy, somewhat overshadowing the employment gap. Going this direction with your resume can also highlight those on-target and transferable skills relevant to the reader.

    I hope this helps.


  4. Sometimes employers ignore gaps. But more than 6 months of employment is an alarming factor. I’ve worked in recruitment before and I must say there are 2 things which would be good fill-ins to those gaps – volunteer work and continuing education.

  5. It’s not necessary to give reason in resume on employment gap because it doesn’t look professional. And the vital details can be furnished at the time of interview.

  6. Wiriting a good resume is important so good imformation. 🙂

  7. Since the start of this year we have seen a huge increase in the number of temporary jobs coming through. We are still seeing significant volumes of catering, secretarial and admin roles as usual, but the number of temping jobs requiring specific qualifications has shot up. It seems companies are trying to minimise their financial risk by employing qualified individuals on fixed-term contracts.

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