Any “red flag” on your resume can lead to an automatic disqualification so I’ve put together a list of some of the more common issues to avoid.
One of the most common challenges job seekers reach out for assistance on is how to address employment gaps in their resumes. As I mentioned in a previous post, people take career breaks for many different reasons, so it’s not uncommon. The challenge, in this case, is in figuring out how to market the knowledge, skills, and experience that you DO have so employers can still recognize your value rather than viewing your intermittent work history as a professional flaw.
Apply a Mindful Strategy
Your resume needs to make sense to the reader in order to effectively communicate your expertise despite employment gaps. How you spent your time during a professional break can demonstrate your value in the eyes of recruiters and hiring managers. For example, did you do any of the following?
- Participate in any education courses or self-study like learning a new language or technology, or meet the requirements to obtain/maintain a professional license or certification
- Write a book or design a program
- Provide independent consulting
- Volunteer or lead any group activities (for a school, professional organization, religious or community activities)
- Work with a temp agency or on a temporary contract
- Manage finances or coordinate the schedule of a parent or loved one as a primary caregiver
Simplify the Employment Dates
I also recommend listing the employment dates for each job listed as year only (instead of including the months). This is a commonly used resume writing strategy because it gives the appearance of consistent employment for those with smaller gaps (a few months or so) between jobs. You’re not being dishonest – you can always provide the months for starting and ending dates of each job in the interview if requested.
If you’re someone with a history of short stint jobs (less than one-year tenure), consider grouping them together into one listing and provide dates from oldest (starting year) to most recent (ending year). This tactic works best if all of the jobs are a similar job position or profession. For jobs held more than 10 years ago, consider leaving the dates off altogether.
Explain the Reason for the Gap
There are generally two schools of thought on how to handle a career gap in a resume that career professionals frequently debate: (1) ignore the gap completely; (2) address the gap truthfully. Personally, I like to assess each job seeker’s circumstances individually to decide which option makes the most sense.
If you decide to address an employment gap in your resume, keep in mind that this is a situation where I don’t advise sharing too much information. Don’t spend time writing a heart-wrenching explanation. A simple statement or two is more than enough. Still, be prepared to provide an honest, detailed response for the interview.
Identify and Spotlight Your Transferrable Assets
Recently, I worked with two senior-level job seekers with employment gaps that were preparing to re-enter the workforce. The first client took a two-year hiatus to be a caregiver to a dying parent. Despite the challenges she experienced during that time, she took advantage of a weekly class to broaden her technology skills. The second client decided to pursue his MBA following a layoff from a company due to a major reorganization. By considering the career direction of each client, I spotlighted this information in each resume, ensuring relevancy to targeted skills and experience employers considered most important.
The key to navigating employment gaps in resume writing lies in being able to objectively assess those seemingly mundane skills utilized during a career break in a different way. The only difference between the functions and contributions leveraged during your break that are the equivalent to “professional skills” sought in the workforce is that you didn’t receive pay. Those skills are just as valuable, it’s all about how you market them.
Image Credit: Humphrey Muleba
Now be honest… is the resume and cover letter you’ve been submitting for jobs getting you noticed? What about your LinkedIn? Are you receiving invitations to interview? If not, we should talk! Contact me by phone: 1-866-562-0850 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for a NO COST, NO OBLIGATION 15-minute consultation.