Having a gap in your career history used to mean that you were deemed an undesirable candidate; that has all changed thanks to the recent economic instability. If there is anything good to come out of the record high unemployment numbers it may be that the standards and opinions of hiring managers and recruiters has been forced to change and adjust to meet what has become overwhelmingly common – qualified candidates with gaps in their employment.
A job seeker with a gap in their employment history used to be viewed as unreliable, disloyal, and was labeled a risk; today, however there are numerous variables that contribute to an individual being out of the workforce. There are times when we choose to take time off from our career such as raising a family, to care for elderly or sick family members, or we simply have the financial means to stop working for a period of time. Other times the decision is made for us by downsizing, layoffs, and closures.
Regardless of the reason, more and more job seekers are faced with addressing job gaps to potential employers. While it doesn’t reflect as negatively as it once did you need to be prepared to explain the interruption in your employment.
The most important thing is to be honest about your time off. If you were let go from a position due to the organization reducing the number of employees or because they went out of business then all you need to do is clarify that to a prospective employer. If you were let go for another reason, such as poor performance, then it gets a bit trickier. Don’t attempt to lie about it because it can come back and bite you. The best thing to do is be truthful and humble. Don’t bad mouth your previous employer. Instead, try to show that you have learned from your past and are ready to reapply yourself.
If you are unemployed and have been consistently seeking a new position you know that it can be a full time job. However, if you can find the time, consider doing some additional training or education. To be able to say to a hiring manager that in addition to pursuing a new position you were also using the time to enhance your industry knowledge and experience by doing x,y, and z can make a big impression. Use this time off to network and stay active in the industry. You may even come across someone who can help you with your job search.
Your cover letter is where you should initially address the gaps that will be found on your resume. You don’t have to go into great detail, save that for the interview, but state the reason and find something from your time off that you can put a positive spin on ( i.e. While I have been out of the workforce for two years caring for my mother, I was able to use that time to reevaluate my professional goals and have determined that my focus lies with . . . or, after being downsized from ABC Company I used the time to obtain to obtain additional training in leadership management which I am eager to put to use at your organization.).
Whatever the reason for the gap on your resume it’s important to have a good attitude when talking about it with a potential employer. A negative attitude about a long frustrating job search will get you nowhere, while an upbeat, confident demeanor can set you apart and may go a long way in helping you land your next job.
by Megan Koehler