Explaining Employment Gaps on Your Resume? Don’t do this.

gapSo you have a gap on your resume. What are some ways you can explain this gap away during an interview or follow-up?

Don’t be apologetic. You set the tone for how this employment gap will be perceived. If you present it as a negative, it will be seen as negative. Instead, inform them about how you used that time to grow in other fields or highlight the fact that you stayed up-to-date and relevant in the space. If you volunteered or consulted, speak up! (Better yet, put those opportunities on the resume if they are long enough periods of time.)

Do ask your former employer or colleagues for reference letters. Be specific about what you would like them to include. A short handwritten paragraph about what a great person you are isn’t going to cut the mustard with a professional recruiter. Maybe they can think of a specific instance in which your skills and experience helped the team. Ask them to concentrate on your strengths as they apply to the workplace.

Don’t lie about it. Before you know it, you can speak Mandarin and you’re a risk management expert. It’s a slippery slope my friends, and it’s not worth going down. In today’s job world, layoffs are pretty common place. Unemployment gaps have lost the stigma that they once had. There are so many people in the workforce that have dealt with a layoff personally or in their circle, that there is less judgement surrounding layoff employment gaps. So there’s no reason to hide it.

Do tell them what you did while you weren’t employed. Did you further your education? Did you maintain your presence in the field? Volunteer work, consulting and freelancing are all relevant things to mention in this gap. List these things just like you would another position on your resume. Even if you were working on a personal project that would be relevant to your work, you should mention it.

Don’t bad mouth your former employer. Everyone knows that suffering a layoff is a very bitter pill to swallow. By speaking badly about your former employer, or even alluding to a negative departure, you pretty much just took a big red “Negative” stamp and plopped it down on your resume. This hiring manager definitely gets what it is to get RIF’d, if you can surprise them by staying positive about your experience and time with the company, you’re far better off.

Do read and learn from job listings. Having the generic strengths and experiences that the hiring manager is going to see fifty times a day, in no way sets you apart. Instead, get on the job boards and consider what skills and experiences hiring managers in your field are specifically looking for. Now use those credentials in your own resume for a far more tailored presentation.

Don’t skim over the gap. Many posts out there will tell you to just use years for employment dates to cover up the gap, rather than using months. Again, this is nothing to be ashamed of. It can be helpful to shortly cover the reason for your employment gap in your cover letter. No one has time to read about your failing marriage or dog dying. Keep it short and simple.

Do let them know how you stayed up-to-date in your industry. The biggest concern that any hiring manager has when they see an employment gap is that you no longer have any idea what you’re doing. Especially as technology relates to any field, if you’re gone for any amount of time, there’s a good chance that you missed some sort of relevant technological change in your industry. Whether it’s the cool new app that everyone is using, or current common practice, study up and present your knowledge with confidence.

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Maren Hogan
Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space. Hogan speaks and writes on all career and workforce related subjects. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies and SMBs around the globe. Red Branch Media was formed in 2006 as a simple consultancy. Today, the firm is a full-service B2B Marketing Agency that serves clients in the U.K., Africa, China, Israel, Europe and North America. Primarily focused on the Human Resources and Global Workforce vendors, Red Branch Media handles clients of all shapes and sizes.
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