Explaining a Gap in Your Work History
It’s happened to most of us…a gap in work. Either from a choice to leave early to plan or prepare for your next career move or maybe it took longer than expected to find that perfect new job. Now that you are applying for a position again, you realize you don’t know exactly how to explain your gap in employment. I think this blog is going to clear up some of those nagging questions for you!
Most people rely heavily on chronological resume formats and while this format is probably the most common, it can have an unintended drawback whenever you have a gap in work history. When you use strictly a chronological format, it draws attention to timelines and can of course call unnecessary attention to a gap. In some cases even ending a position in the previous month and starting a new one in the following month can create questions you will have to answer from the interviewer, even if you left on the last day of the month and started the following day. How do you fix that? You could consider leaving out the month and only include the year(s) if you were in a position that spanned a considerable amount of time, say…2006 to 2010 instead of February 2006 to March 2010. You may want to also change the formatting so that it’s not drawing attention away from the other aspects of your work such as the company, your title or your direct responsibilities. Finally, I would go heavy on the WHAT you did rather than the WHEN you did it.
Instead try alternately using a format which allows you to list other experiences. Here you could include any part-time paid and volunteer unpaid or freelance consulting work. Be sure you don’t leave out your title, the company name, location, direct responsibilities and dates if deemed necessary. It is also very common now to provide a “RESULTS” resume format which showcases experiences and other “key accomplishments”.
In some cases it’s more about the What than the When and if you examine closely your resume you might find there’s a lot of old chronological “stuff” you can potentially rid yourself of including especially if it’s older than 10 or 15 years. (This obviously depends dramatically upon your work history and its relevance to your current career and future career searches.)
Cover Yourself with a Compelling Cover Letter
There are a myriad of personal reasons for taking a hiatus from the workforce from staying home to raise children, care for aging or ailing parents or spouse, even personal health issues, etc. Your cover letter can smooth over a few gaps with a little soft explanation about your absence and finish with why you desire to jump back into the exact career you are seeking with their company and how you plan to make an immediate contribution.
In the Interview
Today, with the recession, you could certainly find hiring managers who are sensible and aware of trends in the employment market. You may well be able to turn this to your advantage while interviewing if you were laid off or workforce was dimished due to budgetary cuts or corporate restructuring.
If you were fired or let go, you may well want explain the gap in work as your attempt to make a conscious decision about your next employer, their culture and your fit within that environment.
Finally, if you were out of the workforce due to personal situations as previously noted, be thoughtful in your use of that information as you don’t want to create the impression that you have a great deal of personal “stuff” that will interfere with your work if they should decide to hire you.
What recommendations do you have for job seekers looking to explain gaps in work history?