In today’s economy, it’s no surprise for our recruiter’s to review a resume with time gaps.. Between employee’s being laid off, starting a family, or even pursuing education further; time gaps are most definitely a more regular occurrence. If your reasoning for the gap in time is not clearly explained, you could potentially be viewed as an unstable employee. The negative association from time gaps on a resume is related to those employees who may have been fired or let go due to performance issues and had trouble finding another position. Your resume may be judged that way without a clear explanation. It’s important that you show the employer you are ready for the job, regardless of some time off.
Here are three ways to handle resume gaps:
Your future employer isn’t looking for an excuse, or a sob story; just an explanation. A good place to start is your cover letter, your resume is where you prove you are ready for the position. In your explanation, avoid treating it as a ‘gap’ and describe it as an experience to put a positive spin on your time off. Talk about what you did in the gap whether it was volunteering, classes, or even temporary/hourly work. Explain what skills you may have picked up and how this added to your career. Be ready and comfortable to discuss this gap as it most likely will come up, but don’t dwell on it. Be sure that your explanation is honest, to the point and gets across appropriately in an interview.
Unfortunately in this day and age, sometimes employers consider a gap without explanation as a ‘lazy’ candidate. It’s important to be honest and upfront when dealing with resume gaps, right from the start. If the candidate is taking classes, working part-time or even working jobs outside of IT, it should be clarified upfront thus eliminating the lazy stigma before it can begin. Adding a direct, but brief explanation on the resume can be helpful in this situation. -Craig Farley, Technical Resource Manager
There are various different resume formats that you can use to highlight your experience. Although many employers prefer chronological resume’s, a functional resume can work in some cases. If you jumped from job to job for a period of time, lump these jobs into one experience category. For example, if in 2013 you had held IT titles in a few different locations, you could label this category “IT Experience”. You can also just write the year that you had worked somewhere, rather than the months. This format should only be used in cases where you’ve held multiple unrelated jobs in a short period of time.
If you had held positions in an unrelated field while seeking employment, you could mention these positions further down. You can put these in a category labeled “unrelated experience” and include a brief explanation of how you professionally benefited. No one wants to be judged or labeled as a job hopper, but explaining your experience and how you benefited from it helps. Remember, your resume is the place to show you are qualified for the job.
I think it is best to address the gap(s) in a resume to avoid any confusion, especially if it is longer than 1 year in length. It’s perfectly fine, in my opinion, to mention on your resume (in 1-2 lines) a position not related to your primary skill set; to mention if there was a personal time off by choice, or if you’ve been actively seeking employment during that time. Keep the information concise and accurate and ensure that it mirrors the format of your resume for it to read seamlessly. – Gretchen Ponte, Technical Resource Manager
Highlight the good
Take time to include how well you did in previous positions. Be sure to add honest information about how you helped the company succeed. Include some sentences about profit growth or waste reduction to show how you benefited the company. This is a great way to demonstrate your skills and initiatives. A gap might not be as relevant if you are able to sell yourself as a one of a kind candidate. In addition, you’ll also want to highlight times where you have solved problems similar to what this employer is looking to overcome. More importantly, the employer needs to be convinced that you are capable to perform in this position.
Just remember, a gap in your resume will not necessarily be a deal-breaker, so don’t pretend it doesn’t exist and hope no one notices. If dates do not line up, you will definitely be asked about them and a background check will likely reveal any discrepancies. Be sure to be prepared with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! -Adam Barron, Technical Resource Manager
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