Gaps in a resume, from an employer’s standpoint, are fairly common. If companies only hired people with perfect employment history, there’d be a lot of empty positions out there.
The key to finessing your employment gaps – notice I didn’t say “hiding” or “misrepresenting” – is to be up front and honest about the reasons for the gaps.
For example, I have candidates send me resumes all the time that have a new employer listed every six months or every year for a decade. With no other explanation, I think to myself, “why can’t this person keep a job?”
Luckily, I’m a recruiter and a coach who helps people with their resumes every day. Because I have this context, I know an apparent “job hopper” may actually have completed a series of contract jobs for clients who are fully satisfied with her work.
Or maybe temporary contracts are industry or professional norms in their fields; lots of project-based IT jobs and specialized construction trades operate this way.
Because of this, always explain significant job gaps in your resume.
List Your Activities or Life Events During Work Gaps
Maybe you took time to be a stay-at-home parent? Many of us must take time off to care for an elderly relative.
Or maybe you had a health problem of your own you were tackling during that gap?
You can mention these circumstances in your cover letter, or you can list your activities alongside professional occupations in your employment history, for example:
- Staff Accountant, ABC Company 2008-2011
- Accounting Manager, XYZ Company 2011-2019
- Out of workforce caring for my infant twins 2019-2021
And as of the time of writing this article (autumn 2021), the job market is still flooded with openings in a post-pandemic labor shortage.
Employers are largely sympathetic because so many millions of people in non-essential roles had COVID-19-related layoffs and furloughs.
More importantly, most employers in 2021 are trying desperately and often failing to fill jobs because of the tight labor market. As long as you’re clear and up-front about your job gaps, they may not hurt your chances much.
Label Contract Positions Correctly to Show your True Work History
Maybe you’re a contract worker and the “job hopping” on your resume isn’t job hopping at all; you finished your contract and left on good terms with each employer. Sometimes this is how people with spouses in the military organize their careers, for example, because its more flexible for unexpected deployments.
Or, maybe you’re coming from an industry where contracting is common to one where direct hire is the main mode of employment. Your new job prospects won’t automatically understand the realities of the industry or sector you’re leaving unless you explain.
A recruiter like me might know to ask about this context, even if you don’t tell me in your cover letter, but many employers will see all those short-timer positions and think you have trouble keeping a job.
A good way to deal with this is a “Reason for Leaving” line in your resume template. For instance:
Data Analyst, XYZ Company
- Duties: Data analysis using Adobe Omniture, Microsoft Excel and Quickbooks to reduce wasteful spending in XYZ company’s X Division.
- Employed: January 2019-June 2019
- Reason for Leaving: Completed 6-month contract on good terms
In other words, don’t let yourself be punished for omitting clear context that explains any irregularities.
Employers want someone who can get the job done with skill and enthusiasm. If you can demonstrate you’re capable of that with a well-presented, honest resume and a great attitude in the interview, you can neutralize negative consequences from your imperfect employment history.
Get a Job at SkillsetGroup
At SkillsetGroup, we’re growing fast and hiring dozens of recruiters, sales executives and other positions internally.
If you have a passion for connecting with people, and you think you’ve got what it takes to help SkillsetGroup rocket onto the national stage, you can apply here:
We’ll be hiring multiple people to fill these open positions.