Posts Tagged ‘job gaps’

Strategies for Explaining Employment Gaps

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

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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.

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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

4 Resume Tricks That Will Definitely Backfire

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Bad job search advice. It’s everywhere.

Don’t shoot the messenger (even though he’s also a purveyor of job search advice).

It’s everywhere for a number of reasons, including:

  • Those delivering it often have a bias that affects the nature of the counsel (e.g., spouses, parents, BFFs).
  • There are no licenses or certifications that career coaches are required to carry (which results in a mixed bag of talent in the world of “experts”).
  • Textbook advice—the kind that many of us have the most ready access to during our formative years—can be severely old school (or worse).

Unfortunately, if you don’t use care in choosing trusted sources for job search advice, you may run into resume advice that teaches you how to “trick” the applicant tracking system (ATS) or hiring managers. I’m not here to say that there are no effective “resume tricks,” but there are a few that could very well backfire on you.

Here are four of them.

1. “Borrowing” Entire Phrases Right out of the Job Description

Yes, yes, yes: You absolutely should study the job description for each job you plan to pursue, and you should mirror some of the keywords that describe the skills and qualifications on your resume. You should not, however, lift entire sentences or text blocks from that job description. This will put you on the express train from solid on-paper match to shyster who’s trying too hard.

2. Thinking a Functional Resume Will Serve as the Perfect Disguise

It’s so common for job seekers with career gaps to use the old “hide the gaps with a functional resume” trick that, every time I see one, I just assume there’s going to be a gap. And then I set out to find it. Functional resumes are almost never the right solution. Not only can it be difficult for an ATS to read and parse a functional resume into the electronic database, it also screams “I am hiding something!” Better to use a hybrid resume with a strong summary at the top of the page followed by career history (with details) in reverse chronological order.

3. Listing Completed College Coursework as a Degree

Oh, have I seen heartbreaks with this one. Among them, a job seeker who was about to be hired by one of my recruiting clients—a global manufacturing firm—for a field engineering role. He actually didn’t need the degree as a requirement for this job, but he still felt it necessary to list a bachelor’s degree on his resume. Unfortunately (for him, me, and the hiring manager, who loved the guy), he was a few credits short of having that degree. This little nugget of information came out when the firm’s HR department did a standard degree verification. He did not get the job.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or two credits away from earning the degree. If you didn’t finish it, you need to state “Coursework completed toward __,” not “Have degree.”

4. Fudging Dates (and Then Having Different Dates on Your Application)

Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s just easier to say that the job you stormed out on last July actually ended in November. Smooth over that gap, right?

Wrong. Fudging dates is not only called lying, it’s an easy way to land yourself in hot water with decision makers, especially if you accidentally list out different dates on the official job application. You can certainly strategize if you need to de-emphasize time gaps (for instance, use years instead of months and years), but fudging dates can be a true recipe for disaster.

Without a doubt, it can be confusing, overwhelming, and downright mind-numbing trying to figure out how to set up a resume that snags attention and positions you to sail through the hiring process. As you consider the “tricks,” always keep in mind that some are clearly better than others.

(Avoid these.)

Original from Forbes