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February 2, 2013

Q&A: How to explain jobless period on your resume

After a layoff, it’s one of the biggest questions facing those looking for work: In a job interview, how do I explain my employment gap?

Career counselor Terri Carpenter, with the Sacramento (Calif.) Employment and Training Agency, has the answer.

QUESTION: I was laid off more than two years ago and, due to some health problems, have not been employed since. What should I say to prospective employers in job interviews as to why I have not worked?

ANSWER: If your health has improved and you are no longer experiencing problems, I would use the recession and your layoff as the reason for your gap in employment.

It is not uncommon for many individuals to be unemployed after a layoff for a two-year period. But employers will want to know what you have been doing during that time period, and you should be prepared to answer that question.

Obviously, you have been looking for work. But if you can show, for example, that you have been volunteering at your church or your child’s school, it shows the employer that you were engaged and staying active.

The other option is that you can be completely honest without giving away too much information. For example, you could explain that you had a health issue after your layoff and, while nothing serious, you used the down time to take care of yourself.

In either case, it’s important to know what you’re going to say and stick to it. If you’re not well-rehearsed, you may get nervous, ramble and say the wrong thing or reveal too much.

With respect to your resume, you may want to consider a “hybrid” resume format. The top passage — the functional part — lists your job skills and accomplishments. The next section places those accomplishments in context within a chronological section of past job descriptions.

This type of format prevents an employer from seeing at the top of your resume that you have been out of work for two years.

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