Cover Letter Tips: Addressing Gaps in Your Employment History

Though your résumé may look spot on and demonstrate that you have the right type of experience and education, upon closer inspection a potential employer may see that there are gaps between your positions. Short spaces of time (i.e. one to three months) are explainable; usually it takes awhile to find a new job or relocate for your new position. However, it is the larger gaps of time or the re-occurrence of large gaps that worry employers. They wonder if you are reliable or just a job hopper; if you have numerous jobs that you only spent a few months at, then they would classify you as a job hopper.

If you might be considered a “job hopper” it may be a good idea to leave some of your shorter terms out of your résumé. If you held a full-time job and a short-term position, this does not convey the same message as job hopping; it is okay to leave that short-term job on the résumé, provided it is relevant and you have extra space.

The cover letter provides a good opportunity to explain holes in your work history, particularly if you are returning to the workforce from several years of leave. There are many reasons that a person may need that much time off: medical (self or family member), education, birth of a child, not knowing which path to take, etc. Your reasons are your own, and to you they were very important; however, some employers may not view these reasons in the same light.

Every one of us can relate to a serious illness or death of a loved one. Employers should be compassionate enough to understand that you needed to take a few years of to help a severely disabled parent or spend some time with a terminally ill loved one. Be honest in your cover letter, but keep the details short and concise, for example, “I left the workforce from 2005-2008 to assist my aging father. He has since been moved into the appropriate facility, and I am now able to get back to my career and give it my full attention”.

Explaining that you were out of the workforce for two years to complete your Master’s Degree is quite easy, and since having higher education is a very admiral trait, mentioning it again in your cover letter will not hurt. On the other hand, here are some tricky topics that should seem pretty straightforward, but really do require a bit of finesse.

Staying at home to raise your child or children. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to truly appreciate a stay at home mom. You may be asked questions as to why you could not balance both a job and raising children. Or they may be left wondering if you are going to take an extended leave if you have another child as well. Use your cover letter to address this issue right away. You may write that where you lived there was absolutely no chance at hiring a babysitter; the primary schools had a horrible reputation, so you thought you would give them a good education at home; you wanted to spend the first few years with your child, as they are the most precious years; etc. After giving your reason, you want to assure the potential employer that you are 100% committed to returning to the workplace and are excited and eager to return to your dream career.

Not knowing which path to take. Many people go through this phase in their life, and it can happen at any age. It may occur during your college or university years or once you are into your first or second career. There is nothing wrong with taking sometime to find yourself and developing the traits needed to succeed in your chosen field. However, some employers may think that you have your head in the clouds, do not know what you really want, or are wondering if you will end up leaving this job after only a few months because it was not the right fit either. In your cover letter you can explain that you had been working toward X career, but realized on the way that it was not as rewarding as you thought it was; you did some soul searching and found what would truly make you happy for the rest of your life, and you are now very eager to begin on this new path.

We have many more Career Help Articles Now Available.