What's the Best Way to Explain an Employment Gap on a Resume?

Received Friday, February 6, 2009
Perspective and Opinion on ISYN I had a fanatastic part time nanny job for a young single mother with perfect hours that complimented my full time job. In addition to working full time, my job as a nanny gave me anywhere from 7-24 hours a week.

I am a reader, poster and fan of this blog - and was a nanny without a work agreement. My employer would call or text 1-2 days beforehand with my hours for the week, which didn't bother me, but I have this weird feeling that as of today I was terminated because I didn't recieve a phone call or text about my hours. If I was fired it wasn't about my tardiness, attendance, my relationship with child or about how left the house a mess, as I went above and beyond my job description.

Here is why I think I got fired - a friend of my boss called last week, wanting me to care for her son in an emergency. I was sick and didn't return her friends calls, and yes, I did feel bad. My question: could I have been fired because I didn't return a phone call? My second question: How do I explain the reason for being fired and the employment gap on my resume?


NYC mom said...

I guess you could be fired for any reason though I agree with you that the one you stated seems like an odd cause for termination. Did you speak with your employer about having not returned the call and explained why? I don't even think you should necessarily have to do this, but just wondering if you discussed it with her.

In regards to explaining the gap, it sounds like you think you will not get a positive reference (or any?). This seems odd for one possible misstep that was unrelated to your regular job performance. You really need to directly discuss this with your employer and I would do it in person.

If you end up having no reference, why do you need to explain the "gap" at all since you have had another full time job all along? Just leave it off your resume and avoid having to mention it at all. If you can't get a good reference, I see no benefit to you to putting it on your resume at all.

jada said...

First I have to ask, if you're a reader, you had to have known to get a work agreement. It's discussed so much on this blog, you should know better!

Now, as for being fired? Hell yes, you can be fired for wearing ugly shoes if your Employer so decides, lol. Oh, they may not say so, but seriously, they can fire you for whatever reason they want. They just don't have to tell you that's the reason - and the only way to know for sure WHY you were fired, is to call and ask.

And to explain the gap in employment, it would help to know how long you worked there?

Just Me said...

If I was in your situation I would simply call the boss. Downplay it and make it seem like you're just checking up on the boss but at the same time you're finding out if you are still employed and if you are what your hours are.
You'll never know unless you ask.
If you have been terminated, simply explain to a future potential employer about the situation. It sounds like you were otherwise an exemplary employee and those positives should greatly outshine the one incident.
I must agree with what jada said. If you aren't terminated, I would ask about getting a work agreement.
Good luck! I hope to hear you comment back on here about what really happened!

mom said...

First, ask why you were fired! This is kind of weird. I would never fire somebody I liked and thought did good work(especially a great babysitter! Do you have any idea what gold a good sitter is?!)because she didn't call somebody else back. Probably wouldn't fire her even if she ddn't call me back sometime, unless I had called more than once and was sure she had ignored me, because anything can happen to a phone message and there is no way to be sure a single message was even received.

maybe they went on vacation this week? Maybe mom is home sick? Maybe grandma is there for the week and your employer was not considerate enought to let you know that you would have the week off?

Otherwise, something doesn't seem to add up. That's really no reason to fire a nanny you are otherwise happy with. I can't imagine any normal person doing that. Call her!

Then, as somebody suggested, just leave this off your resume if you have been otherwise employed during this time as well.

Night Nanny said...

It sounds to me like your "assuming" that you're fired. I would call and say I didn't get a text today and just wanted to touch base about the schedule for the week. See what happens from there.

I'm a Mom said...

I don't understand why you haven't called to see if she wants you to work this week. Just call her.

And for future reference - always get a WA, no matter how PT you are.

BaltimoreNanny said...

Definitely contact your employer. Technology isn't perfect, its always possible a text or call didn't go through. Its also possible the family is ill and wont't be needing help this week.

If you are terminated, I suggest asking why, maybe you did something without realizing it and knowing could prevent the same mistake/misunderstanding in future positions.

Nanny in Beautiful San Diego said...

Could you have just returned the phone call to your boss's friend and told her you were sick? Anyway, I guess that is water under the bridge now.
If you were fired based on that, then that is really shallow of your boss and you would not want to work for someone like that anyway!
But maybe you are jumping the gun here and she just has not gotten around to notifying you or maybe she just does not need you this week, etc. You can text, call or email her and ask!!
If you still have your full-time job, then there should be no gap in your resume.

Nanny Taxi said...

Always get a work agreement. Always keep lines of communication open. I learned these things the hard way. Why would you have to explain any gap? If they let you go, go on and find something else, no gap there. If they won't give a reference, then you may have a problem. I know this may sound sneaky and underhanded, but I was let go on 1 job after 6 weeks. She met me in the condo parking lot, tapped on my window, handed me 1 weeks pay, told me it was not "working out." She opened my back doors and took out both car seats, demanded the zoo pass I had on me back and walked away! No explanation, no nothing. I tried to call and she'd hang up on me. To this day I still I have no idea what I did or did not do.
I had to put something in that time, so I used my brother and his wife. They have 3 kids and 2 of them have special needs so as it turned out they were a better reference than "hang up mommy." What I am trying to say is you may have to have a friend or family member stand in for the reference.

Nanny Taxi said...

Oh, one more thing. Mr April, Ms. Coughlin I certainly hope you are reading this. Perhaps someday you will pluck the shared hair across your asses and me know what the hell happened.

fake a reference? said...

great advice, nanny taxi. fake the reference. as a mother I would be furious if someone faked a reference and I found out. I'd be completely understanding of a brief work gap, but fake a reference? that is some of the worst advice I've ever read on here.

Nanny Taxi said...

Fake a reference:
It really wasn't a fake reference. I did babysit my nephews and niece many times.
Not all mommies are as understanding as you about the gap.
I am just being realistic.
Maybe the OP can get a good reference from her employer, that is if she is even fired in the first place. Perhaps she could get one of those "So and So worked for me from such and such a date 'til such and such a date."

Just Me said...

Bad advice Nanny Taxi. When I hired my nanny, I looked up the references on all the nanny's references on Zillow (not hard to get an address if you have a phone number, town and name) to see if they look like a legit reference before I considered making a job offer and performed a full professional background check including a reference check with an investigation service before she started and I don't think I'm unique. Better not to lie. Your fake reference would have to be pretty damn good. My current nanny did have an employment gap, but explained it and it was not an issue. Everyone comes across a bad employer at some time. She would not have the job if she lied.

honest nanny said...

i've had a couple of work gaps on my resume' and i find it's best to be honest. i just explain why i was "let go" and why it took me so long to start again. mostly for me it takes me a while to find a family i think i'm a good fit for (i'm pretty picky). just as a family is interviewing you to find out if you are a good employee, i interview the family to find out if they are a good employer.

in this situation if you were let go for not returning your boss' FRIEND's call, then it is no fault of your own. you didn't agree to work for your boss' friend...

i don't think anyone would fault you for that.

ericsmom said...

Just tell them you were serving a sentence. And that explains the gap in employment.

just kidding

SA said...

I usually use the phrase "and a babysitter since." and the end of a few time periods I have on my reference list.

1. Because for me, that's true. I still will babysit from time to time for nannies I used to work for.

2. It makes me look like I'm always working 3 to 4 jobs.

3. It allowed me to cover up a bad run. Had a month long trial with a family with twin two month olds and a three year old girl where I adored the children and they wanted me to stay on. Problem was, I found the parents what could best be described as cold and didn't want to work for them. So I respectfully declined the job offer. They acted poorly after.

Consider it.

SA said...

Correction: families not nannies I used to work for, I was the nanny.

Note to self: Find brain.

SA said...

** Err at not and the end


PinkNanny said...

I think it's very unlikely you got fired because of that, unless your boss was highly irrational. I do think the economy is bad and people are cutting back where they can, for whatever reason. Sometimes people get embarrassed and don't want to say it.

Is there no way you can call her and find out the situation? She could still be a reference for you. All she has to do is verify employment. By the way, if you have done your job well, she really won't have anything bad to say about you.

Nomatter what, you won't really have a gap in your employment. I would use your other, current full-time job on your resume and as a reference as well. Here's why: Not only can your other boss give more verification on what type of employee you are, families like to see what your other (non-childcare) skills and job experiences are. That way they can know you are a professional and that you aren't just being a nanny because you have no other option.

Nanny Taxi said...

Just Me:

The only Zillow I can find online has to do with real estate.

mom said...

Nanny Taxi,
Yes it is a real estate site. But you can glean many things from looking up the addresses of references.
First, you can see if the addresses are even real, and correspond with actual residences.

Then you can see if the nanny happens to live with, next door to, or in very close proximity to her "references" (as in, she has friends and family faking references.)

You can see if they live in an area where nobody would be realistically be a nanny employer (ie., on a college campus or a neighborhood where the typical financial situation of the families living there would make it all but impossible.)

You can also cross reference the addresses listed with the county tax records to be sure that the person listed as living at that address is the person your potential nanny has listed.(Prevents driving around writing down the addresses of nice homes in good neighborhoods and attaching her frined's names to those addresses on her resume.)

All that before getting a private investigator involved. You can save the money for that on the candidate you choose whose references first seem to be in great order.

Nanny Taxi said...


Again, I used my brother. He has a 10 year old, and 6 year old twins, both autistic. I babysat them many times. My brother and I have different last names (I am married), he lives in a different city than I, and when I checked Zillow his house was listed at 475K, not too shabby. I don't even think he knew that! So I had to call him! He is a R.N. D.O.N. at a local nursing home. (Registered Nurse, Director of Nursing)
His wife is the comptroller of a local hospital.
I don't think you could punch too many holes in that reference.

Anonymous said...
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CollegeGirl said...

I had such a similar situation. I had an occasional sitting job that was fairly regular and the employer would call me a few days before I was needed. I had only babysat for her for about 4 weeks when she simply stopped calling. It didn't occur to me until the following week, but I realized I had been fired.
I find it very rude for an employer to simply stop calling you. Yes, it is easier on them, but it makes my life much harder. Since then, I have repeatedly tried to find out why I was so abruptly fired, but I do not want to call since it's been so long.
This was the first job that has ever had a negative outcome for me and I still don't know why I was let go. I wish employers would think about how it affects their sitters. It would be nice to have used her as a reference in the future, especially since I thought that we got along well...
Anyways, I feel your pain here. Sometimes employers are offended by the littlest things...

prefer to remain anonymous said...

I hired a per diem sitter in October. She was to babysit 2-4 times per month. In December, my husband returned to the home to retrieve a prescription for me; our children were asleep; but the nanny was masturbating (I don't know the gentler way to put this) with one of our kitchen utensils, right on top of our coffee table. The nanny was on her stomache, spinning about (as described) and a wooden spoon was sticking out of her bare bottom. He was shocked, left quickly. Pulled up again, this time setting off the car alarm to serve warning. Once inside, he called me and said he couldn't find the perscription and that I should just come home. So, if you are sitter, "SB" from Rockland County, I hope you at least imagined why we never called you again.

mom said...

Nanny Taxi,

You're right, that information wouldn't come out on Zillow. But a background check, which should be done after a candidated is selected and references checked, would provide your maiden name...if not the specific information that one of your references was your brother.

That said, however, I don't think a family member is a bad reference (as long as you actually sat for them as much as you claimed on your resume.). A lot of us got our first and best exposure to taking care of kids by watching the kids of family members. No shame in that...and maybe it even speaks to a general love of children that could be a positive quality. The only way that would bothere me as a reference is if you didn't tell me up front that one of your references was a family member, or if an inordinate number of your references were related.