How to Deal with Gaps in Your Resume

Last Updated Nov 25, 2008 6:46 AM EST

  • Mind the gaps in your resume.The Find: Lay-offs and higher unemployment means many people will soon face gaps in employment on their resumes; here's how to explain them to a potential employer.
  • The Source: A new survey and tips from recruitment company OfficeTeam.
The Takeaway: Executives rarely unanimously agree about anything, but one thing they can all get together on is worry over gaps in a candidate's resume. A recent survey of 150 randomly selected senior executives at the 1,000 largest US companies conducted by OfficeTeam found that 93 percent said they'd be concerned about a candidate's fit for a position if his or her resume showed involuntary periods of unemployment.

A figure like that could cause people who have been out of the workforce for awhile to despair, but OfficeTeam insists there are ways to cope. For a start, job seekers shouldn't neglect the job search basics. Dave Willmer, executive director of OfficeTeam, recommends they "focus on quantifying their achievements and emphasizing specific skills and experience." What else can job candidates do lessen the impact of any gaps?

  • Provide an explanation - Every situation is different. Proactively offer a brief explanation for employment gaps in your cover letter or first interview to alleviate a hiring manager's potential misgivings.
  • Highlight the positive - Use a functional resume format rather than a chronological one. This will draw attention to your achievements, specific skills and strengths versus dates of employment.
  • Stick to the facts - If you've been out of work for a while, it can be tempting to stretch the truth about your dates of employment. Resist this urge; not only is it dishonest, it's also easily discovered by prospective employers.
  • Seek out referrals - If your resume doesn't capture all that you can bring to a prospective employer, enlist help from your network of friends, business colleagues and mentors who can recommend you for job openings.
  • Fill in the gaps - If you're unemployed, seek out temporary assignments while you're looking for a full-time job or offer your expertise to a nonprofit or volunteer organization. You'll build your skills and demonstrate that you've been productive while seeking full-time work.
The Source: What's the view from other side of the table; when you're hiring, how do you feel about periods of unemployment and what can a candidate do to mitigate their impact?

(Image of 'mind the gap' warning on train platform by dykstranet, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.