Further Questions: How should applicants address gaps in their employment history?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

How should applicants address gaps in their employment history? Does it matter if applicants have a long gap for personal reasons (moving for a partner’s career, raising children, illness or injury, etc.) or because the job market is tough? Should gaps be addressed in the cover letter or the resume/CV, or both?

Jacob BergBecause I tend to read the cover letter first, that’s where I’d like applicants to address employment gaps. Volunteering is one way to fill gaps in a resume or CV, but I understand that not everyone is able to do that. Raising children can be an explicit strength. As a fellow parent, I know it requires a significant amount of scheduling, time management, and patience, among other things, and those are skills that I hope many employers are looking for.


-Jacob Berg, Director of Library Services,  Trinity Washington University

angelynn kingI would expect a gap to be briefly addressed in the cover letter, but not on the resume itself.




-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Julie TodaraThere are many reasons why people might have gaps in their resume. Rather that ignoring them; however, (and I know you aren’t suggesting that) people can:
Add a sentence in a cover letter that something like:
“The interview committee will find two gaps in my application and resume and should I be considered for an interview, I will be more than happy to address them through email or by phone or during the interview.”
“The gaps in my application represent 8 months where I was searching for work and 18 months where I relocated to an area that did not have a job market in my profession (or in my specific area of expertise.) During this time I (waited tables, ran a busy bakery counter where I learned great customer service skills)!”
“My gap in employment represents a time when I was refreshing my skills set and updating my technology expertise through extensive distance learning and working with a mentor.”
“I chose to take one year off between my first professional job and my second position.”
What applicants shouldn’t do is ignore the gaps or try to hide them by obscure or generalized dates. The best example of where this backfires is – my institution will NOT let me count any experience less than six months…so if you had three summer jobs and a fall or 5 month semester position, I can’t count any of that toward experience. In an effort to look as if they had longer than these four short positions, I have seen applicants use general dates such as 2003-2005. So within this time period it could only be14 months because let’s say you went to work – beginning in December of 2003 and then left in January 2005.
So, address it somewhere in your packet, ask them if they need clarification before the interview process and be honest. Don’t be afraid to list experiences that contributed to an overall skills set and although we typically can’t count volunteerism, it provides exposure, networking, etc. and these days one can get a great deal of experience at a distance in areas such as supporting virtual reference programs, working on association committees, volunteering to  design a groups web environment or keep a group’s web content current.
– Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College


Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

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Filed under Further Questions

2 responses to “Further Questions: How should applicants address gaps in their employment history?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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