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How to Address Employment Gaps in your Resume

How to Address Employment Gaps in your Resume

For the first time in a long time, the United States unemployment rate is back on track. At 5.5%, this rate means that more people are getting jobs and more companies are hiring. For many, this is the opportune time to get back to the job search, perhaps after an extended period of not working. There are a variety of reasons to take a leave from the work force, whether you get laid off or leave to serve in the military, have children, deal with family complications, or even to take the time to travel. The questions is: what are some of the best practices to address employment gaps in your resume?

Have Confidence Moving Forward

First of all, while you may minimize the attention paid to the gaps, there is no reason to feel ashamed or as though these gaps must be masked.

Be open in sharing your employment gap. Think about what you did during your time off and frame it to show that while you were not working in a traditional sense, you have improved from the experience. For example, did you do any job training? Have you taken any professional development classes? Did you do any volunteering during your leave? Take time to reflect on the skills and know-how you acquired and frame that into your resume or cover letter.

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Be Honest

After looking through countless resumes, recruiters or hiring managers are able to identify when something seems a little fishy. Many sources will tell you of strategic ways to hide your employment history by taking out the months to mask the duration of your unemployment. This is not the case. In fact, a hiring manager will mostly likely be less inclined to move forward with a candidate who appears to be misleading.

The important thing to remember in this is that as you move forward in the applicant process, you will be compelled to fully disclose your work history. Don’t back yourself into a corner where you appear deceptive. Be honest throughout the process.

Show Your Work

Perhaps during your gaps, you took on some temporary jobs, whether you were employed by another or by yourself. Try grouping these together, where logical. This will show that you remained active during a period of unsteady employment. Grouping will also help your skills and assets to be more visible than the job itself. For example, if you worked doing freelance writing while in between jobs, make that a header and list your achievements in that position, rather than listing the companies or organizations for whom you wrote. When it comes down to it, the desirable characteristics in an employee are not shown by where they worked, but by their character, work ethic, and skills.

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If you did a variety of jobs, classes, or projects during your unemployment, try making a section header and listing some of those accomplishments. The self- motivation needed for this type of work can reveal a lot about your work habits, which can be desirable. For example:

Maternity Leave, June 2015 – Present

  • Completed online Managerial Leadership Certificate at University of Texas McCombs School of Business during off hours
  • Developed procedures for on-boarding new volunteers at local youth sports organization

Emphasize Skills Over Chronology

In the same vein, emphasize your skills over your employment history. There are several ways to do this. The first is to be sure the bulleted points in your resume stand out and work for you. This means that they should not merely be listing the tasks of your job, but should instead show your specific accomplishments while in a position. Accomplishments are best displayed when they are quantified to prove your skill or expertise in a given area.

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Another way to emphasize your skills in your resume is to designate a skills section. A skills section can take the form of a list and should include skills applicable to the position for which you are applying. When listing skills, be sure to include both the full name of the skill and its abbreviated form so it is sure to register in Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS.

Look carefully at the job description to find resume keywords that should be mimicked in your resume. For example, if something like financial modelling is listed several times throughout the job description, be sure to highlight your experiences and successes with it — whether while in a steady job or during your employment gap. Using a tool like Jobscan.co makes it easy to see what those keywords are and maximize their usage. Again, your skills and character are important to recruiters.

Be Positive And Professional

Overall, remember that life happens. A gap in employment does not mean you are not a desirable candidate. Hiring managers ultimately want a good person, one whom they can trust. Focus on the positive and recognize the assets you can bring to a company. Take initiative and always act professionally. Don’t rule yourself out with your own attitude.

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Featured photo credit: Stokpik via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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