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My employer granted me a one-year sabbatical in 2016. As a result, my resume currently looks like this:

Foo Widget Corp, Senior Engineer, January 2014 -- February 2016, February 2017 -- Present

In my cover letter, I explain that I took a year's sabbatical and spent it backpacking across three continents. I'm also quite happy to talk about it in interviews because it was a great experience and I learned a lot.

Someone recently suggested to me that I might want to include a brief explanation on my resume itself for the gap, since "nobody reads cover letters." While I fully accept that nobody reads the letter -- I've been involved in hiring senior engineers at Foo Corp the entire time I was there, and I've never seen a cover letter -- I don't think that it's necessary to include in the resume itself because it detracts from all the other things I'm trying to say about my experience in the position (responsibilities, accomplishments, etc.)

The other questions I've found about "explaining away" an employment gap all seem to be about gaps for negative reasons. Others, like this one talk about using the cover letter to excuse a gap pre-emptively. However I already am using the cover letter to explain that this was a sabbatical, and I did certain cool things which gave me certain cool skills/taught me useful things that I've applied upon my return; my concern is about putting something in the resume itself. This question indicates I should be attempting to explain somewhere but doesn't clarify if the cover letter is sufficient.

Should I indicate that my employment gap was due to a sabbatical granted by my employer on the resume itself, or is it sufficient to mention it in the cover letter and interview? If it matters, my field is software engineering (the title is actually 'senior software engineer', not just senior engineer) and the country is the United States.

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    Why not "Foo Widget Corp, Senior Engineer, January 2014 -- Present". You were still under contract, probably with an exclusive employment clause. In my book, this is not even a gap. – Jeffrey supports Monica Mar 14 at 18:23
  • When you say you were on sabbatical, was there an actual agreement with your employer that you would return in a year and they would have a job for you? Or did you just take a year off work and then succeed in getting (something like) your old job back? – GreenMatt Mar 14 at 21:19
  • @GreenMatt - It wasn't actually called a sabbatical, in those words, my employer called it "a year off". But I officially remained an employee the entire time though I was not eligible for benefits, and when I came back I literally just showed up at the door and they gave me a desk and I picked up where I left off. I've been calling it a sabbatical because that's a decent synonym for the situation I believe. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Mar 14 at 21:22
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    "nobody reads cover letters." - your friend is quite wrong. – HorusKol Mar 14 at 23:04
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If you were on sabbatical, it is probably reasonable to just list January 2014 - Present on your resume. You were still an employee so you don't really have a gap.

If you need to include the gap for some reason, it's unlikely that you'd need to explain it anywhere. Unless you had a really spotty work history prior to this job, it's pretty unlikely that anyone is going to care about a 1 year gap that happened 2 years ago. Particularly when you went back to the prior company and stayed there for 2 years. A year isn't generally a large enough gap to warrant an explanation. And the concerns about a gap generally go away pretty quickly once you've started working again.

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Based on the assumption that your sabbatical involved an agreement with your employer that you would return to work in a year's time and that they would have the same (or similar) job available for you, I agree with Justin Cave's answer - you don't need to list the gap on the resume, as you were an employee of the organization, just on an extended leave of absence.

That being said, if you need to list it, just list it as a sabbatical. For example:

Foo Widget Corp, Senior Engineer, February 2017 -- Present
Sabbatical year, February 2016 -- February 2017
Foo Widget Corp, Senior Engineer, January 2014 -- February 2016

If it comes up in an interview, you can explain what you did ... and how it helped you in a way that will help the prospective employer.

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If nobody reads cover letters, and you yourself have never seen a cover letter, and you don't expect potential employers to read your cover letter, and you don't include the gap in your resume, then how do you expect potential employers to understand why there was a gap? Your logic is a little faulty. How does including the gap distract from other things in your resume? If nothing else, excluding the gap would actually create a distraction. "Why is there a gap?"

As for the gap itself, why would you explain it in any other way then what it was? You took a sabbatical. Why say anything else? Why try to explain it any more than that?

None of this is complex or difficult. Put the gap in your resume. Explain it exactly as it was. Be frank, honest, and straight-forward. Why do people have such difficulty with this stuff?

  • I interview in a technical role, not as a recruiter or a hiring manager or anything. By the time they get to me in the hiring process, they've already gotten past the initial gatekeepers of HR/Recruiting, phone screen, etc. I'm not entirely surprised that I've never seen a cover letter because by the time they get to me all I'm supposed to evaluate them on is their technical abilities. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Mar 14 at 19:30
  • As for "As for the gap itself, why would you explain it in any other way then what it was? You took a sabbatical. Why say anything else? Why try to explain it any more than that?" -- that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking if I should explain it in the resume. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Mar 14 at 19:30
  • I think you should explain it. I've never used a cover letter and have never been requested to submit a cover letter. My opinion is that your work history (or lack thereof) should be explained in your resume. – joeqwerty Mar 14 at 19:39

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