Dear Sarah,

I was out of work for quite a while. Now that I’m looking to work again, I’m worried that the gap in my resume will be held against me. I WANT to work, but I have a feeling that my time out of work will keep me from working again, just making the gap in my employment even LONGER. It’s frustrating to think about and even harder to go through. So, I was wondering if you had any workarounds.

Thanks,

Catch-22

Hey Catch,

People take time away from work for many reasons. Maybe a family member got sick, maybe they were changing careers or maybe they were let go unexpectedly and found that it took time to land on their feet.

Unfortunately, resumes aren’t a place for this kind of nuance. The average hiring manager looks at your resume for literal seconds, scanning it to decide if you’re a worthy candidate among the sea of people looking for work (many of whom didn’t have to take time away).

In that initial scan, you’re just trying to catch the manager’s eye in a positive way. While gaps in a resume can be eye-catching, they aren’t the kind of attention you want. And if the resume gap is paired with a short term of employment, things get even dicier. We found that being let go from a position before 18 months drastically reduced hireability, having the same effect as losing ~5 years of experience from their resumes.

Swear it’s not all bad, though. Getting around a gap in employment isn’t impossible, it’s just tough. And there are a few tricks that you can use to trick a hiring manager into thinking about the times you were working as opposed to your absences.

Fill the gaps

This is the most obvious answer and it’s also the hardest to do. But you should definitely consider what you did in your time away and if you did any work that could possibly be related to the position for which you are applying. It won’t be pretty. A patch rarely is. But it’s better than a hole in the wall.

And even if you can’t find a way to fill the voids in your resume, consider having back-up side work for the future. If you find yourself jobless, see if you can easily slide into some part-time work for a cousin who wouldn’t mind picking up the phone and gushing over you. Any job is better than no job.

Play With Numbers

At TalentWorks, we like numbers. Like, a lot. Playing with different scenarios to see what numbers they produce is a big part of what we do and how we help others find work, so we can wholeheartedly endorse fooling around with the numbers on your resume.

If you were let go from a position at the beginning of the year and didn’t land another one until the fall, they were still technically within the same year. Just don’t include months on your resume and the gap is all but gone. Where your resume might read something like this:

Company A – March 2013 – January 2015

  • Etc.
  • Skills
  • And So On

Company B – August 2015 – Present

  • Wow
  • I’m Great
  • Hire Me

You should consider making it look like this:

Company A – 2013 – 2015

  • Did Great
  • What of it?
  • Uh-Huh

Company B – 2015 – Present

  • What gap?
  • I see no gap
  • One job, please

Don’t give them a reason to ask where you were and they won’t. After all, hiring managers are busy.

Increase Your Chances In Other Ways

There’s plenty of other little tricks you can incorporate to keep the person reviewing your resume from thinking about couch time. Start your resume with a narrative statement that puts what you can do for them front and center. Put your experience into hard numbers explaining how you affected the companies you worked for. Apply at the right time, using the appropriate keywords for the industry you’re working in and use leadership keywords to boost your profile.

Of course, if this is still seeming like a bit much, or you’re finding the hurdles insurmountable we have a whole suite of ways that we can help you land your next gig.

All the best!

ask-sarah-1

ask-sarah.png

Did you like this post? Share it with your friends!

Leave a Reply