A gap in employment is more common than you might think. People often take time away from the workforce to care for children or family or to recover from an illness. Sometimes there’s a gap between jobs because finding the right fit can take time. As a newcomer to Canada, it often takes time to get settled and find a job in your industry. It’s okay to have an employment gap, but how you explain it is very important.

Structure Your Resume and Cover Letter to Minimize Gaps

It’s a good idea to have your resume reviewed to make sure it is strong and that it doesn’t emphasize the gap in employment. If the gap is obvious, you may want to briefly address it in your cover letter.

If you have short gaps in employment between jobs, one way to minimize them on your resume—and possibly increase your chance of getting an interview—is to remove the months and only list the years of employment for each job you’ve held. For example, instead of listing the period of employment as “May 2012 – October 2015” you would simply list it as “2012 – 2015.” Keep in mind that this format only works if your gap in employment is shorter than one calendar year.

Address the Employment Gap Briefly

You should never lie about an employment gap. It’s very important to be honest and to address the employment gap directly, but keep the explanation brief and to the point. Some employment gaps are easier to explain than others, but you should avoid a detailed explanation that dwells on the circumstances. The more you explain, the more likely it is you’ll say something that could hurt your chances of getting the job.

It’s common for newcomers to experience a gap in employment as they get settled. But you can turn this to your advantage because global experience is increasingly valued by employers. Briefly explain how your global experience can give you an advantage in the role or how it can help the employer.

Prepare for Questions About the Gap in Employment

You should expect to be asked about your employment gap, and preparation for those questions is very important. You should practice until you feel confident enough that your responses are natural, not overly rehearsed. If you’re underprepared and nervous or overprepared and sound like you’re reading a script, the interviewer may think you’re not being completely truthful.

Fill Employment Gaps with Meaningful Activities

If you are currently between jobs, one of the best things you can do as you actively search for work is engage in meaningful activities, such as participating in a bridging program for newcomers to Canada, volunteering, interning, or taking professional development courses.

If you’re interning or taking a course, it shows a hiring team that you are taking steps to keep your skills current. Volunteering can also help you to learn about the Canadian workplace, develop new skills, and expand your network. Even if it’s completely unrelated to your career, it demonstrates your commitment to supporting and helping others—soft skills that are attractive to employers.