Is There a Work Gap on Your Resume?
Are your prospects dimming because you’ve been out of work for 3 months, 6 months, even longer?
I talk with job seekers every day about their resume and job hunting strategies. Many are in this same boat and rightly concerned. As the economy continues to tank, I predict that the out-of-work gap period will only grow longer for many job hunters, making the search even harder for them.
In the past, when a job hunter was out of work for longer than a couple of months, they were viewed as “damaged goods” by many prospective employers. In light of the sheer numbers of people devastated by this economy, it appears that hiring managers will be less inclined to automatically trash the resume of otherwise stellar performers solely because they’ve been unemployed for several months. That said, there is still the tendency to view a long unemployment gap with suspicion by many employers today.
Use This Time Wisely
If you have a widening gap in your current work history, you’ll want to make best use of this time and explain it on your resume.
Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources stated, “Most hiring managers recognize the economy has sidelined many outstanding people”.
He added that employers are now capitalizing on the economic downturn to add experienced players who would have been unavailable a year ago.
If you’re currently unemployed, you must stay relevant and marketable. This means undertaking such activities as volunteer work, project work, taking classes or certification training. While job search can seem like a full time job, you aren’t on the phone or networking every waking hour of your day. Assign some of this time to activities that will allow you to stay current. You may be unemployed, but don’t give the impression that you’ve withered away during this period.
Explain Your Gap Status
While it may be more the “norm” to see longer work gaps these days, don’t leave this period unexplained. Remember, your resume should always be selling you, and this includes your current unemployment. Use your time between jobs as an opportunity to spin your story in your favor. It’s unfortunate that you were caught in a major layoff not of your making. But don’t leave this situation to chance because employers will be more apt to select candidates who appear more “up to date”.
If your unemployment gap extends for more than a few months, use your resume to best advantage and briefly document some activity during this period. No more than a brief sentence or so, include some action that a prospective employer might view as making you a better candidate for employment. Taking classes is certainly one example. Other strengthening life situations include taking care of an ill relative or spouse, overcoming a life crisis or taking a leadership role to achieve a positive outcome in your community. Whatever you decide to include, it should answer the question: “How has this action made me more marketable, stronger or otherwise a better person?”
Once you select an explanation, boil it down to a brief sentence. Even though it’s most likely not part of your Professional History, I would include it here because most hiring managers will quickly scan your work history chronology. They want to know what you’re doing now. Answer this potential objection right now. Don’t bury your crucial explanation at the bottom of your resume. They won’t bother reading that far because they’re likely already reaching for that next resume.
While work gaps of several months’ time don’t have as high a negative impact on prospective employers as they did before this recession, you don’t want to take any chances. Make the extra effort to undertake some activity that will distinguish you from your competitors during this period, and document it on your resume where a hiring manager can clearly see it.