Anyone who has ever had a period of unemployment knows the stress it can cause. You go from having somewhere to be every day to all of a sudden being faced with the prospect of having a lot of free time. Even people who hate their jobs suddenly have a different take on things once they are without it. It can be quite the jarring feeling. In addition to that, you are now faced with the prospect of being a job seeker. That could mean updating a resume you aren’t sure you even have saved on your computer anymore, making sure you have references willing to rave about what a strong addition you would be and finally the added element of being able to explain why you are in the situation you are currently in. All that can be quite trying but this post isn’t an attempt to tackle all of that. Instead it is looking at how you should handle a gap on your resume.
Most people who end up with gaps in their resume don’t plan on ending up in that situation. While it can happen for a variety of reasons the end result is the same, there is a period of time in your resume that is unaccounted for. When you apply for a position at a company they are going to see it and immediately they are going to wonder why the gap exists. Job seekers know that and most of the time they try disguise the gap. I am going to spend the rest of this post talking about the right way and the wrong way to do that. The main way I see this handled incorrectly is by leaving off the months on their resume. Job seekers who have been laid off or quit a role try to hide the fact that they had a period of unemployment by only have the years that they worked at a company. Look at an example of this formatted below.
ABC Company 2/15 – 1/16
In the above example you can see that the person was hired in February 2016 and was no longer with the company as of January 2016. Now let’s look at the other example below.
Month Missing Format
ABC Company 2015-2016
Let me be clear on my opinion of this. Po9int blank, it doesn’t work. Recruiters might spend their days looking at hundreds of resumes and when candidates leave the months of employment off it is usually a dead giveaway that there was a big gap. In fact it draws more attention to it than if you had simply left it as is and kept the months on there. When I see that on a resume it actually leads me to believe that not only are they not with the company anymore, there is indeed a gap but also that they probably ended up leaving on not great circumstances.
What to do instead
Now they I have told you what not to do, I will focus on a better approach. While I am not a big advocate of cover letters, when you have a gap in your resume I actually think it’s a pretty good idea to have a cover letter. You can use that cover letter to express interest in the role, explain the gap of employment, explain how you kept your skills sharp during that gap and explain why you would be a great fit for the company and be able to come in and contribute day one. Another tactic to quell any concerns a recruiter might have is to indicate why you are no longer with the company if it was through no fault of your own. For example, if there was a downsizing and you were caught up in it, then it’s a lot less damning then you punching your boss in the face and being walked out. Obviously that’s an extreme case but the point I am making is that if you were part of a larger layoff or a contract ended it behooves you to put that on your resume. The point is illustrated below.
ABC Company 2/14 – 1/15 (Contract assignment ended)
When I see that on a resume it offers me an immediate point of clarification. Otherwise I would wonder, why did this person leave ABC company? If a contract ended or perhaps you were part of a layoff, as a recruiter I would want to know that. Those types of things happen to people and they do not reflect poorly on you but if you don’t specify, we won’t know. Now if you were fired for cause that is a different story. I wouldn’t include that next to the position you held on the resume nor would I include that in the cover letter. Instead I would be prepared to speak to that in interviews. I wouldn’t recommend lying about it, rather you just need to be able to frame it correctly. By that I mean talk about how valuable of an experience it was for you, what you learned and why now you are looking at roles you feel are more aligned to your skills. In addition if you can get references from that company it certainly can help.
Once you have had your interview, check out my post for how to write the perfect Thank you letter.
So there you have it. In my opinion that is how you deal with gaps in your resume. It’s not something you try and hide because believe me, it will be noticed. Instead, find a way to tell the story of why and explain what you did in the interim to continue to develop as a professional. Thanks for reading!