Many of us take time off at some point in our careers. Sometimes it’s by choice – and sometimes not. Children are born, elderly loved ones need care, companies reorganize, economies tank … life happens.
And the harsh reality is: When a person has been out of work for more than six months, prospective employers tend to look negatively at them. These are the same prospective employers who spend between seven and 20 seconds perusing resumes for the first time.
With this in mind, what’s your best strategy for explaining employment gaps and turning them into positives as you seek your next position?
Redesign Your Resume
This is a good time to consider a functional – versus chronological – resume format. Do whatever it takes to guide a hiring manager’s eyes towards your accomplishments and achievements, versus specific employment dates.
- On your Employment section, minimize gaps in your work history by using just years, versus months.
- Avoid boldfacing dates and use a smaller font. Remember that seven-to-20-second rule!
- Include any freelance, consulting or volunteer work you did during your period of unemployment. Regardless of the reason you left your last job, emphasize newly-acquired and updated skills, contacts and experiences that contribute to making you the perfect candidate for this job.
Take the High Road
A positive tone to your resume – and, by extension, your cover letter and job interview – is always important, but it’s even more critical when reentering the workforce after an employment gap.
- If you were laid off from a previous job due to work force cuts, provide examples of your successful performance there. If possible, secure recommendations from that employer. (You also can utilize these on your LinkedIn profile.)
- If you lost a job due to performance shortfalls, explain the steps you’ve taken to improve and emphasize how your skill set is better suited to the new job.
- Never criticize your former employer. Prospective employers may know them or, at the very least, be inclined to take their side.
- If you’ve taken a voluntary career hiatus, make it clear that it’s over now and that you’re ready to contribute to your new employer’s success.
Addressing employment gaps can be challenging and requires fine-tuned skills and maybe even some practice, as you plan your next career move. Consider working with a professional recruiter to be optimally prepared for this experience. Contact the team at PrideStaff Fresno and we can set you on the path to success.