Having a gap in work history has long been considered taboo and one of the biggest red flags for an employer during an interview.
The harsh truth is whether you like it or not, having a gap leaves you at a disadvantage compared to your competition that has consecutive work history. When hiring managers are evaluating candidates, they are basically looking for reasons to not hire you (sorry, another harsh truth) and seeing a hole in your experience can raise concerns. So how do you best position this?
Job gaps can happen for several reasons: layoff, caregiving, moving, starting a family, illness, etc. the list goes on. We’re all human and sometimes life happens.
Regardless of the reason, before you begin actively job searching, you must evaluate your resume.
- How long is the gap? 3 months? 6 months? Over a year?
- What was the reason for the gap?
- Is the gap in the past or are you currently “in the gap”?
- Do you have more than one gap?
Ideally, it’s helpful to get a few sets of eyes on your resume to get different perspectives on how the gap(s) looks to a third-party. Think former managers, recruiters, mentors…anyone you are connected with on a professional level.
Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for…the best way to explain a job gap is:
Have a Story.
After you’ve evaluated your gap, begin the process of creating your story. This is your life and you have to figure out the best way to articulate what happened and more importantly, feel comfortable and confident when explaining it. When crafting your story, focus your foundation on just being honest because the truth ALWAYS comes out. Always. Don’t cover the gap with extended “fake” employment dates or act like it isn’t there. Own your story.
Now although we’re considering this a “story”, this is not something you will write an essay about. As a hiring manager, it can be detouring to read a resume and see in big block letters “Unemployed from May – Dec 2017” or “Stay-at-home mom for 3 years”. Your story should not live on your resume.
So let’s say you are in an interview and the hiring manager asks:
“What is this 6 month gap I see here between your last two jobs?”
Do not say:
“Oh, I took some time off between positions.”
Instead try something like this:
“My department at Company X was laid off due to budget cuts. Although it was not an ideal situation, I used the layoff as a positive catalyst to allow me to move to a new city, renew my certification in ______, and start off my next role off on the right foot.”
The answer is thoughtful, includes specifics and positive notes, and does not discount or avoid the fact that there is a gap.
Lastly, in addition to evaluating your work history, make sure your resume is solid and impressive. Sometimes the gap is honestly not that bad but because you’re looking at it subjectively, it can seem that way. But just to be safe, use this time to really spruce up your resume content. Highlighting strong accomplishments and focusing on your strengths will be your best asset when overcoming work history concerns. (And don’t forget your LinkedIn)
If you have more questions about positioning gaps in work history, feel free to reach out to our team directly!