Gaps in employment on your resume can be a deal-breaker. You know the expression, “It’s always easier to find a job if you have a job”? Unfortunately, it’s generally true that employers frown upon employment dates that aren’t consecutive. This article will give you some tips for how to cover the gaps in a resume, whether they are six days or six months.
What’s the Big Deal About Employment Gaps?
We’ve seen employers walk away from potential candidates just because they have a period where they were unemployed. Even in today’s market, where the unemployment rate is so low that almost everyone is working, there’s a stigma around taking time off. There is an assumption that because you took time away from the workforce, you were somehow being lazy or slacking off. Or perhaps there was a personal issue keeping you from full productivity.
Part of the problem is the technology we’re using. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which is technology most recruiters use, could lower your score if you were unemployed at some point. While it won’t matter if it was a couple of months or 20 years ago, something more recent may create a red flag.
Dealing With the Gaps
While there is no specific rule of thumb related to what is too large of a gap in your employment history, there are several ways to account for the gap, such as:
- A layoff
- Childbirth or another life event like eldercare
- A personal medical issue
- Taking a bootcamp or going back to school
- Taking the time to find the right job
You can fill the gaps by taking an event and plugging it into a job description slot. For example:
- Volunteer, the United Way
December 2018 – March 2019
While actively searching for a new position as a Senior Project Manager, volunteered for local fundraising organization. Provided data compiling and analytics, as well as staffing the phone lines during a fundraising campaign which raised $250,000 for a local children’s nonprofit.
- Senior Project Manager, Eldercare
December 2018 – March 2019
While looking for a permanent position, also provided caregiver assistance to elderly father who required in-home care. During this transitional time, also completed Agile certification and took courses on Lean Techniques.
This will allow the ATS to scan your resume completely, without discarding it. By using keywords in the descriptors for the volunteer or eldercare time, it helps the search technology handle your gaps in employment without penalizing it. Hiring managers will also look more favorably on your resume as they look for gaps.
You can expect interviewers to ask what you’ve accomplished since you left your last job. Your answer should come across as genuine, comfortable and candid, without sharing too many details or being overly emotional.