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.
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.
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.
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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