Kaylyn McKenna

Having a gap in your employment history used to be considered a red flag that could greatly hinder your job search. However, much like job-hopping, it’s no longer an uncommon thing to come across gaps in resumes for most candidates. From changing attitudes towards work to the rocky job market created by the COVID-19 pandemic, several factors have led to a rise in career gaps.

If you’re a hiring manager or recruiter who still feels a bit uncertain when it comes to resume gaps, we’ve laid out some key considerations to help you decide whether or not to hire a candidate with a resume gap. Find out how to broach the topic with candidates, and learn when gaps in resumes are a major red flag and when you shouldn’t worry about them.

Should a resume gap deter employers from interviewing a candidate?

If you’re a recruiter or hiring manager who is still passing over applicants due to gaps in their resume, you’re likely missing out on some incredible talent. There are tons of valid reasons for a candidate to have a gap on their resume that have little to do with their work performance.

Try to keep an open mind and look at the candidate’s full application package. If their resume and cover letter are strong, it’s worth inviting them to the interview round where you can inquire further about their employment gap.

Should you ask candidates about resume gaps?

If you’re curious about a gap in a candidate’s work history, it doesn’t hurt to inquire about it. As you ask about past positions during an interview, feel free to inquire about any notable career breaks listed in the work experience section of their resume. This is a relatively common interview question when candidates have noticeable employment gaps, so the candidate should be prepared to explain the gap.


Many people use both planned career gaps or unplanned periods of unemployment to expand their skill sets, engage in continuing education, try their hand at freelance or contract work, travel to new places, or do volunteer work in their community. Learning about any non-traditional experience they gained can be valuable in assessing the candidate’s cultural fit and job qualifications.

Just be sure not to pry too much. Many people take time off for their own physical or mental health or to act as a caregiver to a sick family member. If a candidate cites personal reasons, health challenges, or family as a cause of the job gap, limit any follow-up inquiries. It’s not appropriate to request medical information or pry into private family matters during a job interview.

Can candidates hide a job gap on their resume?

Yes, sometimes you won’t even be able to tell that a job seeker had a gap between jobs. There are many resume templates that just include years worked rather than months and years, and these are a popular way to make employment gaps less noticeable. There are also creative resume formats like functional resumes that focus primarily on skills rather than work history. Though you may be able to view clearer dates if you search the candidate’s LinkedIn profile.

When employment gaps shouldn’t be viewed as a red flag

More often than not, there is a completely valid reason for candidates to have a gap in their work history. Here are some common reasons for employment gaps that potential employers shouldn’t view as a concern.

When they’re due to layoffs

Layoffs have unfortunately become a frequent thing over the past several years. If a candidate tells you that their resume gap was due to a layoff, you shouldn’t hold that against them. Often you can tell by the date and/or the name of the company if a job gap was due to a layoff. For example, if you see a resume gap occurring around the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, it’s fair to assume it was a pandemic-related layoff or furlough. Similarly, if you stay on top of news in your industry, you may recognize the employer’s name as a company that recently downsized or shut down.

When the candidate was focused on their education

Most people’s work history is a bit spotty during the years in which they were pursuing degrees or other educational opportunities. Often college students, including graduate students, piece together summer jobs, work-study programs, or internships while they focus on their degree. This can make it look like they’re job hopping or have several gaps in their resumes, but realistically their main occupation during that period was being a student.

If you see an employment history that looks a bit all over the place, check if the candidate listed a graduation date or college attendance years in the education section of their resume. That may clear things up quickly. If education dates aren’t listed, simply ask the candidate about the gap during an interview or phone screening.

If their employment history indicates a career change

Making a career change can be challenging. Typically, you’ll need to take some courses or self-study to build new skills, network in the new career field, and spend some extra time finding a company that’s willing to take a chance on you. That isn’t always the quickest process. Give candidates some grace if the transition took a bit.

You can typically tell based on past job titles if the candidate is looking to make a career change. During the interview, ask about what inspired them to switch careers and how they prepared for the change. If your job opening is in their new field, it’s nice to dive into what they like about the field and any training and development opportunities that they took part in to prepare for a new career path.

When gaps are normal in the industry

One thing that any good recruiter or HR Manager should do is familiarize themself with the industry and the role that they are hiring for. Some roles are a bit more seasonal or project-based in nature, so it may be fairly normal for candidates to have gaps in resume job histories. Tourism, construction, and even education-focused jobs often have slow periods or lengthy breaks during the year. If you see a gap of less than six months or notice that someone took a temporary job for a few months before returning to their full-time career, it may have to do with standard industry operations.

When employment gaps are a red flag

Overall, an employment gap shouldn’t be reason alone to deny a candidate an interview or job offer. But some instances do require some due diligence and follow-up questions to ensure that the candidate will be a suitable match for your company.

When the candidate was fired for poor performance

Being fired for poor performance or attendance is a red flag. While everyone makes mistakes, past performance is typically an indicator of how they would perform for you if hired. Though realistically, most candidates are not going to volunteer the information that they were fired. Due to this, you may want to give a candidate a chance if they choose to be honest about their past mistakes and explain what they’ve done to improve themselves.

When the gaps are a bit too frequent

One resume gap on someone’s resume shouldn’t be a big deal. When reviewing employment history in the pandemic years, multiple employment gaps may not even be unusual or concerning. After all, layoffs were common during the 2020-2022 period and some businesses opened and shut again as covid surged. However, if someone has a gap after almost every job on their resume, that could indicate that they’re frequently quitting jobs impulsively without a new role lined up or being fired.

If you see someone with repeated job gaps that don’t appear to be pandemic-related, it’s definitely a good idea to dig a bit deeper into the reason behind those gaps during the interview. You’ll also want to make sure you’re thoroughly checking references with these candidates. They may be great employees and have a completely understandable explanation for the frequent gaps in their resume, but it’s a good idea to verify with past supervisors that they are stellar performers and not problem employees.

When the gap is so long that their skills may not be up to date

Some industries change more quickly than others, but staying up-to-date on the latest skills, technologies, and practices is important. If a candidate has been out of the industry or workforce for a long time, it’s valid to be concerned about whether their skills are up-to-date.

Hiring someone who left the workforce for several years, such as parents who stayed home until their children reached school age, is not a bad idea. Lots of talented and hardworking people take career breaks. However, long employment gaps are something to take note of when reviewing resumes and to inquire about during interviews.

You’ll want to learn more about any professional development courses or updated certifications that the candidate has completed recently in preparation for their return to work. You may also want to dive deeper into their past relevant experience by asking about the tools and processes that they used. This will help you understand how long it will take them to get up to speed if hired. All hires will need some training as they step into a new job, so slightly outdated skills may not be a major issue as long as the foundation is there.