Dealing with resume gaps can be tricky. You never want to lie about your employment history, but a gap between jobs will certainly attract attention. How you handle a gap in your resume sets the tone for how a hiring manager will respond to that gap. While it may be tempting to gloss over the gap by stretching past employment dates, this approach can backfire, calling your credibility into question and causing you to lose the offer. Don’t hide a gap; explain it.
Here’s how to address three common employment gaps on your resume:
Extended resume gaps
If you’re re-entering the workforce after a long hiatus, use your statement at the top to succinctly summarize relevant skills and accomplishments. [LINK TO RESUME OBJECTIVES] Highlight recent credentials or continuing education you’ve completed that proves your skills are fresh and that you’re on top of industry trends.
Keep it serious. Whether the break was to be a stay-at-home parent, care for a sick family member, or pursue a dream of world travel, trying to be humorous on the resume with your experience can backfire. It’s great to be candid during the interview, but your resume isn’t the place for phrases like “adeptly managed family laundry piles.” Instead, use this valuable space to emphasize that you’ve kept your skills fresh, whether that’s through relevant volunteer work or freelance assignments.
Did you hold a short-term job (three months or less) in between two much longer-held positions? For example, perhaps you left a long-term position in April (Job #1), started a new position in June (Job #2), and then leave for a better position in September (Job #3)? At first glance, this job-hopping might raise a red flag, even if there’s a perfectly good explanation (professional relocation, recruited to a new position, etc.) to explain your rapid changes. If Job #2 doesn’t augment your skills, experience or leadership credentials, it’s okay to leave this position off. Just be prepared to be honest about the gap should an interviewer ask for details.
Short gaps between jobs
Did you lose your job in February only to spend the next six months job-hunting until you found a new position in September? If you list the months and dates you held positions, you’ll end up with a six-month gap that distracts from your main message. This is the one case where you may be better off listing years rather than specific start and end dates. Of course, if a hiring manager asks you how long it took to find your next position, you should always be honest. But in this case, there’s no reason to broadcast a larger gap.
If you have extended professional gaps or multiple career changes, don’t rely on a resume alone to tell your story. There’s no time like the present to work your network and meet as many decision makers face-to-face as possible. The more practice you have discussing resume gaps, the more confident you’ll feel when questioned during a formal interview.
For more recruiter resume secrets, be sure to check out our other blogs:
- Resume Skills Section: 4 Dos and Don’ts
- How to Include Internships on Your Resume
- How to List Education on Your Resume
- Resume Objectives or Summary Statement?
- Top 4 Resume Mistakes to Avoid
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