Whether you've been unemployed for months or even years, prospective employers will evaluate your work history when you apply for a new job. You're not out of luck just because you have a gap or two on your resume. Since your resume is likely the first contact you'll have with a possible employer, you'll need to take a little extra time on it to minimize the influence a gap has on your chances at an interview.
Review Yourself First
While you've been out of the workplace, time has moved on. Technology has changed and you might have outdated skills and certifications. You're emphasizing your time away to prospective employers if you put obsolete skills or qualifications on your resume. Research the skills, certifications and qualifications currently associated with the job you want. You can use this information to decide what you should and shouldn't include on your new resume.
One of the most common resume formats is chronological, but this type of resume will present your absence to the employer before your skills. Try a different resume format instead, such as skill-based. You list your position-relevant skills and qualifications first and give specific examples of your experience and achievements in these areas. You still include your job history, but the information goes at the end of the resume and is less emphasized. Look at the different resume formats to decide which one best suits your particular circumstances.
Fill in Gaps
You don't have to limit work experience to just paid professional work. You can include volunteer duties on your resume to explain gaps in your work history. If you worked part-time in another field, including those jobs to cover open time periods and demonstrate a continuing work ethic. Disclosing a little personal information to the employer that explains the gap on your resume is a possibility if you're comfortable with it and have no other way of filling in history gaps. For example, if you had to quit working to take care of a sick child, briefly include that in your resume or cover letter. If you include it in your resume, you can make an entry in the correct date spot in your work history, such as "Caregiver for relative" and the corresponding years. If you decide to go with the cover letter, include a brief statement, such as "During 2008, I cared for a ailing family member" and highlight that you're ready to return to work.
Above all, be honest about your work history gap. Hiding jobs you took to make ends meet or inventing work to cover gaps might come back to haunt you. For example, if the employer checks your job history and discovers a fake entry, you'll lose out on the opportunity automatically. If you conceal employment and the employer finds out later, it can harm your reputation at your workplace.