Archive for May, 2016

Strategies for Explaining Employment Gaps

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

For every professional whose career is a straight road, always gradually sloping upwards, neat and tidy, from promotion to promotion, there are a dozen people whose path not only oscillates up and down like a heartbeat but whose straight road has a few bridges out and big gaps between.

The employment gap, no matter how long ago, no matter the totally and completely justifiable reason for its existence, is the bane of job seekers everywhere. Maybe you took time off to go back to school or raise a family or take care of a sick relative or just couldn’t find a job for a few months during the last recession… that empty space on your resume seems to grab the eye of every recruiter, HR professional, and hiring manager who looks at it, demanding a complex and harrowing explanation.

But if gaps affect so many people, there must be some way to handle them properly? A few experts weigh in on how best to deal with this difficult topic:

Be Honest

Whatever the reason for your time away from work, honesty is always the best policy.

Don’t hide it; explain it. During the entire process of conducting a job search, maintain your integrity and demonstrate it. Jobs come and go, but being known for being truthful—and conversely, deceitful—can last a lifetime.

An example: When a candidate went for an interview recently, she was certain the gap would come up, and it did. When she told the potential employers the truth — that she’d wanted to be home with her children and felt fortunate that she was able to do so — an excruciating silence followed. In an attempt to lighten the mood, she joked that during that time she’d done some freelance work, but she also spent a fair amount of her day tackling mountains of laundry. What happened next surprised her: They laughed and thanked her for her honesty.

“You have no idea how many people come in here and fumble through telling us about some extended project they were working on,” one of the interviewers scoffed.

So even though you might be tempted to invent some elaborate story explaining away your employment gap, it’s best to keep it concise and honest and hope the company understands, rather than running the risk of getting caught in a lie.

Be Prepared

Stuttering and stammering your way through your first sit-down is as unimpressive as showing up late or calling your female interviewer “sir.” Just as you’d prep to discuss your previous positions, employers are going to ask about your time off, so be ready to address that as well.

Whether you managed a household, co-chaired an event that raised much-needed funds for charity, or trekked across the globe, chances are you picked up some important skills along the way—think communicating persuasively, becoming a master organizer, or adapting to unknown situations. Identify them, think through how they apply to the job at hand, and craft a short, compelling statement you can use in interviews.

Be Confident

While the thought of discussing how you came to be unemployed, especially if you were let go or fired, might make you uneasy, don’t panic. Resume gaps are not as uncommon as you might think.

If a company doesn’t understand what has happened to our economy since 2008 and the impact on individuals, well, you likely don’t want to work there anyway.

So, while answering questions about any period of unemployment can be uncomfortable, know that you’re not alone. Just be sure to prepare for whatever questions come your way, maintain honesty in your explanations, and have confidence in the skills you’ve attained during that break. Taken together, this can go a long way to bridging the gap with poise and professionalism.

Good luck!

How to Explain the Gap in Your Resume With Ease | Elizabeth Alterman via The Muse

Tone Down Your Resume To Improve Results

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Dancing Resume

In the past, we have highlighted some of the crazy, over-the-top resumes that people have used to try to get attention, from candy bars to beer to odd videos to Legos to billboards to wandering around the streets with a sign. From the amount of media attention that sort of behavior gets, you would be forgiven for thinking that trying something equally creative is a must, if you want to make an impression.

But while that sort of thing may get you hired at Google or a media company (if you’re the first person, and not the second or third, to try it), where creativity is valued above all else, it might not get you anywhere if you’re trying to land an HR generalist role at a small construction company. It’s important to tailor your resume to your audience, if you want to stand out with the types of companies and hiring managers appropriate to your discipline. A recent blog article addressed this disconnect:

Unfortunately, the media’s need for sound bites and traffic-generation often supersedes providing pragmatic value to the job-seeking audience. While boots-on-the-ground resume strategists who have intimate experience working alongside job seekers sit quietly holding their tongues, the airtime often goes to reports touting sexy, outlandish resume methods under the guise of ingenuity.

If this confusing message has sent your blood pressure soaring and compelled you to seek the craftiest way to market yourself, calm down – creative resumes that tell a ‘value story’ still net the best results.

More than ever, in fact, doing the roll-up-your-sleeves work to research your target company, hiring manager and company culture is critical. By doing the arduous work in understanding your recipient’s needs and then vetting out your methods of fulfilling those requirements in your resume, cover letter, emails, elevator pitches, biographies and social media profiles you will ultimately stand apart and get the right person’s attention.

While the flash-in-the-pan resume infographics may dazzle a news reporter, the reader that matters is the one who will choose your resume from the stack of thousands and ask you for the interview. That person is silently waiting for the most qualified candidate, not the most innovative sound-bite resume.

So the bottom line is: know your audience. Stay away from the kooky and weird; even if they worked the first time, by the time you hear about them, they are already old hat and you definitely don’t want to be someone who is the second or third or even fourth person to send a no longer clever gimmick to a hiring manager.

The Perfect Resume

Instead of wacky and weird, think targeted and framed. Don’t spend a hundred years trying to think of the perfect, original idea to craft the perfect resume; focus on getting your individual value across as succinctly as possible to the people who make the hiring decisions. Regain control of the mess your resume has become and remember that, ultimately, it’s not about you and your resume… it’s about THEM.

Good luck!

How To Tone Down Your Resume For Better Results | Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter via Glassdoor