Spring 2022

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How to Explain Employment Gaps

Navigating the job market after a break takes reflection.

Q. I temporarily stepped away from work last year. I am now ready to start searching for a job, but I am worried that the gap in my résumé will exclude me from some opportunities. Will employers ignore my application? How can I stand out among applicants who may have a more consistent work timeline?

A. You are not alone in your career transitions during the past year or two. The job market has changed in unexpected ways. This has also left many job seekers with inconsistent employment histories. However, an unexplained employment gap may still give hiring managers pause. Fortunately, there are several strategies that you may utilize to remain competitive in your job search.

Start by exploring ways to gain experience while you search for a full-time role. Consider part-time, volunteer or training opportunities so you have an active, current experience listed on your résumé. In your cover letter you can discuss transferable skills and tasks for a full-time role and emphasize your qualifications for a progressive step toward your next job.

Prepare to candidly discuss your experience in your application letter and interview.

But also prepare to candidly discuss your experience in your application letter and interview. For example, when asked to walk through your experience, you may note, “After ending my job with employer X in August 2020, I have been volunteering with a local nonprofit as a fundraising associate and strengthening my technical skills in preparation for a new project manager role.” It is important that you discuss your most recent experience while demonstrating your interest, skills and motivation as a prospective candidate. Answer interview questions about employment gaps honestly and succinctly. Note that questions about family or health-related topics may be off-limits for employers, depending on the circumstances or employment setting. If you need additional help navigating the interview process, contact the Center for Career & Professional Development for a mock interview.

In addition to preparing a strong application letter, résumé and interview, don’t neglect your Horned Frog network. While your résumé may not have the additional context for your employment gap, you may find discussions with other alumni will help you focus on the contributions you will provide your next employer rather than past employment history. Research the hiring needs of employers in your target industry or location, and talk to alumni who may be able to share their insights and advice for reconnecting to the current job market. 

Mike Caldwell is the executive director of TCU’s Center for Career & Professional Development. For more information about careers, visit

The Career Center offers mock interview services and resources for alumni at