Do you have a hole in your resume? Did you take a few years off to raise children, explore Europe, or simply wait for the right job?
Having a gap in your resume shouldn’t spell doom for your chances at landing a great job. There are several great tricks to help you overcome the dreaded employment gap, and we will go over these here.
Be creative but don’t deny the gaps
There is nothing wrong with taking time off from work, so long as you have been productive during your unemployment. Did you go to any professional classes or conferences? Have you learned a new skill or spent time training for a different career?
These are all great skill-building activities that could be put into your resume.
This can include volunteer work, too. If you spent some of your downtime pitching in at a local food bank, or coordinating a charity run, you can and should include it. If you’re not already doing something in your down time (besides job hunting, of course) then get on it!
Remember that your resume is not just a snapshot of your jobs and responsibilities. It’s an introduction of you as a professional to a potential employer. As such, your resume should tell the reader the beginning of a story—one that shows how you have progressed over the years, built your knowledge base, and met challenges.
Group temporary and self-employment gigs together
When someone is unemployed for an extended period, temporary jobs and contract labor are a common way to make ends meet. Others simply prefer the “gig economy” so they can have the flexibility to pursue other interests. This type of employment history can look a little awkward on a resume, however, especially if you have a handful of temporary jobs at one time.
If you were a contractor, or if you did these jobs on contract, you may be able to qualify all of this time as being self-employed. Doing this will give you one steady explanation of that timeframe (and look a whole lot better on your resume).
Employers rarely look down on someone who started their own business, even if it failed in the first year. Failed businesses happen often and as long as you’re prepared to explain it honestly in the interview, this isn’t a deal-breaker for most hiring managers.
Rearrange your resume to emphasize skills
A functional resume format, versus a chronological one is very likely the best solution for you. It’s a resume format that emphasizes years of experience with certain skills, rather than the exact dates you worked for a particular employer.
If a hiring manager sees that you have 10 years of management experience, and five years of programming experience, they may be more inclined to give you a call than if your resume simply states that a few years ago you had a job as a manager, then switched careers to programmer after a year of unemployment.
Keep in mind, hiring managers are onto this and when they see a functional resume, they are immediately aware that there is a good chance you decided to approach it this way to hide resume gaps. This is completely fine, it allows for an easily readable resume that highlights your experiences as accomplishments and gives an overall summary, which is exactly what hiring managers want to read.
For many jobs, you may still need to list your employment history, even with a functional resume. This is commonly done at the bottom of the page, and it doesn’t have to be as detailed as it would be if your history was front and center.
Don’t worry, and don’t go overboard
Resume gaps happen, especially in an unstable economy. Having an employment gap isn’t always a deal breaker, and when it is, it’s probably not the right employer for you in the first place.
It’s common to go overboard listing a dozen responsibilities under each job to fill blank space. But doing so can also give the impression that you are trying to hide something on your resume.
Build your resume in a way that reflects you as a professional. Emphasize skills, list the small things, and be prepared to explain any gaps when the interview happens.
In the end, resume gaps are far from the hardest thing job seekers have to overcome.