Using Cover Letters To Explain Employment Gaps

Do you have gaps in your employment history? While you do not always need to bring attention to employment gaps in your resumes or cover letters, when needed cover letters can be used to subtlety explain employment gaps. If you have an obvious employment gap that you believe needs explanation a functional or skills resume can often take care of that. However not all professions or employers appreciate functional or skills resumes and your chronological resume might have a “hole” in the work history.

As an opportunity to explain what a truly chronological resume cannot, using your letter can be useful for addressing employer concerns and presenting yourself in the best possible light. However, if you do choose to go this route, you should proceed with caution. A major temptation for many job seekers is to over share when they are explaining things to employers. You want them to understand where you are coming from and what the back story is on gaps in your work history. Unfortunately, employers don’t really want to hear most of what you have to share.

This lack of interest in your personal affairs isn’t meant to seem cold or cruel. It’s just that your messy divorce, details of your stay at home mom or dad years, time spent on the golf course during an unemployment gap, or details of your surgery are too much information. Employers simply want to know that you are capable of doing the job well and that you the best candidate for them to hire. For this reason, keeping your explanations short and to the point is important.

Cover letters should be focused on your skills and abilities. Mentioning the reasons you took a break from work is fine, but making it the exclusive focus of your job application detracts from what you have to offer as a candidate. Evaluate your letter carefully to be sure that you are using it for the appropriate purpose—getting your foot in the door for the interview.

If possible use your gap in employment to your advantage. For example, if you are applying for a graphics arts position you might mention the relevant class you took while you were between projects. If you served as a member of the PTA, worked part time, performed volunteer work, you can state the relevant skills you gained.

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