Employment History: Accounting for Employment Gaps and Job Hopping

View Worksheet

Including your employment history on your resume is a must, but the presentation of that information gets a little trickier when you have employment gaps or periods of job hopping. To start with, make sure you are reading as many job postings as possible, and apply for the ones that you feel you are qualified for and can develop a list of skills and accomplishments that relate to the position.

While you cannot change your work history or magically erase employment gaps or periods of job hopping, you can give more attention to the positive aspects of your employment history. Using a functional resume, for example, is great if you have a spotty work history and related references or periods of job hopping. Similarly, a chronological resume or combination resume that starts with a Summary of Qualifications draws more attention to your strengths rather than the timeline of your jobs.

The best way to address both employment gaps and job hopping is through strategic thinking on how to present your information. Some strategies you might employ to account for these two things include the following:

  • Omit months, and focus on years in your employment history
  • Find non-traditional experience outside of your work history that gave you relevant skills
  • Use an objective statement
  • Combine multiple jobs under the same heading
  • Incorporate a positive spin in your cover letter

Dealing with employment gaps

If you have employment gaps throughout your work history, presenting your experienceS in the best light depends on your personal situation.

  • First, think about other experiences you can apply to the skills required for the position. Educational, volunteer, community and consulting experienceS and involvement often help you build specific skills.
  • Second, consider omitting months from the time periods for each entry under your employment history. If you were only unemployed for a short period of time, use years to show periods of employment to make the employment gaps less apparent.
  • Third, consider using an objective statement at the top of your resume. This resume section is optional, but an effective resume objective can give your resume a boost when it summarizes your career goal and qualifications.
  • Fourth, if your employment gap covers a longer period of time, demonstrate the ways in which you stayed up-to-date regarding industry changes.

Whatever the reason for employment gaps in your work history – raising a family, caring for a sick family member, recovering from an illness or injury or attending school – you should never get defensive or apologetic. When you have a negative attitude, the quality of your resume can suffer, so focus on highlighting your strengths.

Dealing with job hopping

If your employment history shows job hopping, you can put your experiences in the best light to account for it. Some industries have shorter terms of employment by nature, so if you work in a field where short job periods are common, do not concern yourself over a history of job hopping. However, if job hopping is not a byproduct of the field in which you work, consider employing a few of the following practices to mitigate the effects job hopping has on a prospective employer’s perception of you.

  • Add multiple jobs under the same heading. By taking two or more positions that are similar and combining them into one period of time, you can make your job hopping history less apparent. For example, if you worked as a marketing professional in three different jobs in a three-year period, combine all three jobs under the same title, and use a period of time that encompasses all three.
  • Avoid listing every job you’ve ever held. Remember that your resume is a chance to market yourself, and you are not required to list every job. Instead, focus on the ones that show your value as a candidate for the position to which you are applying. Under this strategy, you could omit a chronological accounting of your work history to focus on your skills and accomplishments. Keep in mind, however, that if you are required to fill out an actual job application, you need to supply a complete work history regardless of the relevancy of each job.

Using a cover letter to address employment gaps and job hopping

While the nature of a resume does not provide space for you to address employment gaps or job hopping in your employment history, a well-written cover letter does. Consider putting a positive spin on either situation in your cover letter. However, avoid simply saying “I hopped between so many jobs because…” Instead, talk about what you have done in your life to stay ready to work, and how your experiences have prepared you for the position to which you are applying.