Don’t Fall into the Gap – How to Handle Holes in Your Resume
As if the job market weren’t tough enough these days, you have an added challenge: gaps in your resume. While those holes in your experience may make your job search trickier, they aren’t insurmountable. Whether you’re currently unemployed or your resume gap is a blast from the past, you’re not destined to remain jobless forever. Here are some ways to impress prospective employers:
To temp or not to temp?--If you’re unemployed, consider taking a temporary or contract post. Work, even contract work, makes you a more desirable candidate for a permanent position. Not only can you keep your skills fresh, but hiring managers feel more confident about employing a person who was recently hired. An added bonus: you will have money coming in so you won’t need to jump at your first permanent job offer.
Give a little bit--Sure, volunteer work can make you feel good, but it can also pad your resume. Look for industry or job-specific roles to ensure the work will wow prospective employers. Many charity organizations would welcome financial, marketing, technology, management or other business expertise. Giving your time now could help you get that next job.
Refine your story--The worst things you can do when asked about your resume gap is stammer and make excuses. You need to explain the gap in a positive, concise manner. Whatever your reason (you took time off to start a family, get a degree, care for a sick relative), get comfortable telling your story. Include a sentence in your cover letter and develop a 30-second “elevator speech” for interviews. If you address the gap quickly and with authority, you and the interviewer can move on to more important topics like your skills and experience.
When in doubt, reorganize!--If you’re convinced your resume gap will kill any interview opportunities, forgo the traditional method of drafting your resume and feature your achievements first. You can list your key experience from all of your jobs together. Include statements like, “Managed a team of six people. Oversaw $1 million account. Served as team liaison to the CEO.” You can then list the dates and companies later in the document. By organizing your resume this way, you move the focus from dates to accomplishments.
Highlight years to de-emphasize--Some people downplay gaps by listing years instead of months and years in the resume. Beware that some employers won’t appreciate this strategy, but it is acceptable and may help to make your work experience look better on paper. Do make sure that your resume is 100% accurate. All organizations will check references and you don't want to risk an opportunity by fudging the truth.
Even gaps in your resume shouldn’t keep you from landing a job. By rounding out your experience, tweaking your resume, and practicing interview strategies, you will soon be able to add another position to your resume.