I Have No Job. What Should I Put on My Resume?

So many people write to me: "I have no job right now. What should I put on my resume to explain my current unemployment?"

We hear that employers prefer to hire someone who is currently employed over someone who is unemployed, so how do you hide the fact that you don't have a job right now -- without lying on your resume? I have two formulas for handling this issue, based on when your unemployment started: before or after January 1st.

Formula #1: You Have Had No Job Since Before January 1st of Last Year

If you have a current employment gap on your resume that started prior to January 1 of last year, follow this advice:
1. Do not list months when stating your employment dates. List only years.
2. Fill your current employment gap with a paid or unpaid activity you were doing that’s relevant to your job objective.

For example: you might have had a few paid short-term projects (such as consulting assignments, temp work, freelancing, or per diem jobs). You might also have done some unpaid work (such as volunteering for a nonprofit, classes/training, personal projects that furthered your professional development, or times when you used your occupational skills to help your family and friends).

Group those relevant paid and unpaid activities under one “job title,” followed by a list of “Selected Clients,” which would include only the most relevant and substantial ones from your full list of activities.

Your employment gap might look something like this:

20xx-present, Technical Support
Clients include:
ABC Company
QRT for the Homeless

If you can’t come up with anything relevant to list, fill your current employment gap with a “job title” that indicates your good character, such as parent, family management, caregiver, travel or something “wholesome” you were doing.

Formula #2: Your Current Unemployment Started After January 1st of This Year

If you became unemployed on January 2 or later of this year, you don’t have to address your employment gap as long as you use years (no months) when detailing your work history. Without months listed, the ending date for your last job will be this year, which doesn’t say when during this year you became unemployed.

However, if you are still unemployed at the beginning of next year (Let's hope not!), you’ll need to follow the tips above for listing paid and unpaid “jobs” to fill the gap.

What Should I Put on My Resume to Explain Why I Have No Job Currently?

For most cases I recommend you give no explanation on your resume. Don't say "I have no job," "I got laid off," "I retired" or anything like that. Just use one of the formulas above to present your experience in a way that makes you look active, stable, responsible, and up-to-date in the skills and knowledge required for your line of work.

If you have a need to explain your current "no job" status, use your cover letter or job interview to handle that.

7 thoughts on “I Have No Job. What Should I Put on My Resume?

  1. I also considered that filling up the somewhat empty work experience with other activities is a good thing to do, but the time limit you suggested never crossed my mind. It really makes sense.

  2. Hi – I have a question. I am currently unemployed and I am trying to figure out how to list my employment dates on my resume. I had just left my most recent job of three months, in September of this year. I have a mixture of work experience: internships of which lasted for 3-4 months, a paralegal position for 6 years, and just recently a job that I just left, which lasted 3 months. It would be difficult to list every position in years. The reason I left was due to my inability to adjust to the fast paced and odd scheduling that this job entailed. I had a string of bad days which collectively contributed to a bad review but I would not like to convey this to any prospective employers. Truthfully, I basically felt I would not have a chance at advancement. I wanted to step back and re-evaluate my life. Prospectively, I could fill the last two months with a volunteer position, or that I needed to attend to a family matter, in order to cover the gap. Thank you in advance for your time.

    • Hi Mark,
      It would be okay to leave your last 3-month job off your resume and list your volunteer work instead. But when it comes to filling out your job application, you should include that 3-month job.

      Hopefully that will be after your resume has done its job of winning you the interview and you’ll be filling out your application form while waiting for your interview. In that case, you will have a chance to discuss your employment history in person. So be sure to practice what you’re going to say so that you assure the interviewer that you are a stable job candidate.

      Best of luck!

      • Hi,

        I have 3months of employment gap, Recently I got selected one company, but I havn’t disclosed that gap while filling the HR form. would it be problem in BGC? how to correct this mistake and how to proceed with HR on the same.

        Please suggest me the best way.

        Thanks In Advance!!

        • Kiran,
          I suggest you call HR and explain it to them. Ask if they would like you to submit a new application form with the short-term job on it.

  3. Hi,
    I’ve over 10 years of IT experience and 5 years of project management experience in construction industry. I’ve been officially unemployed for the last three years and considering going back to IT world. I’ve done many things since my last job that I want to use for filling the unemployment gap such as volunteer work for non-profit, family related work, attending many health IT related courses, and completing professional certifications in project management. However, I’m wondering where should I list these activities to fill the gap and under what category? At the beginning to account for the last 3 years or scattered elsewhere ( under experience, education etc)? I’d appreciate your suggestions. Thanks.

    • Hello Cal,
      You want to know where to put your unpaid activities in order to fill a gap in employment on your resume. Insert them into your work history (work chronology) in lieu of job titles. If you’re using a chronological resume format, then insert those activities into the chronology where ever you have spans of unemployment.

      Hope this helps.

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