Over the past three decades working in the recruiting industry, we’ve seen a lot of no-nos during our interview process. Among these are the many times when we’ve find ourselves interviewing candidates for positions that have gaps in their resumes. Sometimes the gaps are for less than a few months, which can be explained if the person was in school or on maternity leave. But significantly long gaps that can’t be explained are red (or sometimes yellow) flags for us because we immediately assume the applicant is irresponsible, and we rarely send prospective employees to people who have a spotty resume. When leaving a job, know that you’ll have to do something to fill the gap on your resume, and be prepared to explain why you took a break from the workplace.
Here are five tips to make sure your resume is free of gaps!
1. Revamp Your Resume
List the years instead of the months and years. Not everyone is a fan of this strategy, but this practice is acceptable and will make you look good on paper. However, if you’re gap is longer than a year, this won’t make help conceal any gaps.
Here’s are some examples we pulled from Susan Ireland’s Resume Site:
11/09 – 4/12, Night Manager, Taco Bell, Woodmont, NY
3/07 – 2/09, Day Manager, Denny’s Restaurant, Milpitas, CA
If you use only years and eliminate the months, there is no apparent gap:
2009-2012, Night Manager, Taco Bell, Woodmont, NY
2007-2009, Day Manager, Denny’s Restaurant, Milpitas, CA
During your interview, you should explain why you have a period of unemployment that spans two calendar years or more. If you were traveling, volunteering or training, include this in your resume if it’s relevant to your job. For example, if you decide to study Spanish abroad for a couple of years, and you’re applying for a job that requires you to speak Spanish, you may want to write.
2010-2013, Spanish student in Madrid, Spain
If the gap in your work history is not relevant, then just explain it honestly during your interview. Stay positive and maintain your integrity. You don’t want to refer to illness, unemployment, rehabilitation or anything that implies you’re a high-risk job seeker. Rather, Susan Ireland suggests using some of these suggested “job titles” (below) and listing them under a “Work History” section, rather than under your “Professional Experience.”
It’s always good to show that you’re making an effort to use your professional skill-set. Focus on a volunteer position related to the line of work you’re pursuing. Donating your financial or business expertise to a charity will add more substance to your resume than stating that you served meals at a soup kitchen.
3. Seek out additional certifications and training
The more your focus on your professional development, the more valuable you are to your employer, so use the time during your unemployed periods to attend training courses or classes you’ve been meaning to take. Brushing up on your technical skills and learning new software tools related to your field is beneficial, but it’s even better to get certified (such as getting a PMP for project managers) to differentiate your resume from the competition. Several professional associations, local colleges, online courses, etc. offer training opportunities. But before you invest in a certification or degree, scan the job openings you’re looking to see how frequently it’s mentioned as being a requirement.
4. Be prepared for questions about the gaps
Whatever the reason is, get comfortable telling your story about why you have a break in your work experience by developing a quick and confident elevator speech.
5. Find a temporary job or contract work
Hiring managers loving seeing that you are staying busy and keeping your skills fresh via contract or temporary work. There is definitely a value to showing you’ve been working, even if it’s not full-time, and you get exposure to new tools and industries. Just remember that recruiters are thorough, so make sure that the project you are working on is considered a real project; that it’s not just a gig you have working with your friends. If you’re working for yourself, you should treat the position with the same importance as all of the other positions listed by listing your accomplishments. An additional benefit to temping is you have another company that can act as a reference, and having a good reference will help alleviate recruiters concerns with your ability to stick with a company long-term.
Are you looking for a temporary position? Follow us on LinkedIn for updates on our temporary positions, and visit our Temporary and Contract listings page.