How to Handle Resume Gaps


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Job seekers often assume that in order to score the perfect job, one has to be the perfect candidate.  That the right mix of education, titles, and skills is needed in order to land the career of their dreams.  So when faced with resume gaps, an individual may rightly feel disheartened.  But continuous employment is not the be-all, end-all to nabbing a great job, especially in these times.  It is important, however, to know how to treat employment gaps on your resume, in your cover letter, and in your interview.

The Functional Format

One way to gloss over gaps on your CV is to create a functional resume.  This focuses on your skills and achievements, rather than on specific dates.  There are certainly other advantages to formatting your resume this way as well, as it allows you to pinpoint exactly what it is that you bring to the table.  The trick here is to tailor it to the specific job that you are applying for.

List Your Achievements

Another way to downplay a gap in employment is to highlight your accomplishments on your resume.  While you may not have continuous experience, various honors will convey that you have quality experience, and that you have been recognized as having done an outstanding job.

Include Extracurricular Experience

Hiring mangers understand that qualified candidates may have gaps in employment.  What they want to avoid, however, is a candidate who is qualified but who lacks work ethic.  What did you do while you were out of a job?  Did you volunteer or become an active member of an organization?  Even though you weren’t necessarily paid for your extracurricular activities, it’s perfectly okay to list them.  Highlight your transferable skills here, and focus on how you can apply them to the position you are currently seeking.

Explain Your Reasons

It also works well to just come out and explain why you have a resume gap and what you did to fill your time.  Don’t be afraid to address the matter in a cover letter or an interview.  Hiring managers will respect your willingness to be forthright about periods of unemployment, and will be interested to learn about the creative, productive ways in which you were able to spend your time instead.

In a time where everyone’s looking for an edge, an employment  gap can seem like a major setback.  But if you know how to strategically position yourself and your experience, a hiring manager will be much more interested in what you have done, rather than what you haven’t.

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Show Employers They Need You!

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Mutual Fund Analyst, New York, NY
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The cover letter is the first opportunity you have to introduce yourself and your extensive skills to potential employers. Make this document work for you by showing employers how you can solve common and unique problems they are facing. Specific strategies in the cover letter will make hiring managers call you!

1. Toot Your Own Horn!

Be sure to include achievements and outstanding accomplishments in the cover letter as well as in the resume.  All hiring managers approach the screening process in vastly different ways.  By including significant achievements in the cover letter you generate interest in your resume and associate certain skills with your name. Listing accomplishments prompts the interviewer to read more and ultimately contact you.

2. Use Key Words Selectively.

Be cautious not to over-use phrases that have become so common they are practically meaningless. You may choose to use such words as “innovated” but be certain to describe exactly what makes your achievement innovative.  For example, “I increased sales 20% by initiating a hands-on mentoring program for new associates”.

3. Managing Challenges.

Employers want loyal personnel who are also able to make things happen. Do you perform well under pressure? Did you identify a procedural problem and devise a solution? Are you uniquely qualified to conduct sensitive negotiations? These are all examples of how you can contribute to the corporation. Describe how you managed these challenges to get the attention of hiring managers.

4. Avoid Explaining Employment Gaps.

You can’t hide an employment gap and if you try to do so, most hiring managers will look on that more negatively than the gap itself. Most explanations of employment gaps are best handled in the resume rather than in the cover letter. If you choose to explain an extended employment gap in the cover letter, the hiring manager may not read further. An exception is in the case of additional training. Improving your skills through formal training or an internship can highlight a change in career direction and emphasize your commitment to the profession.

5. Be Clear About What You Want.

End the cover letter with a request for an interview. Including an intention to follow up can also be effective. For example, “I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the many ways I can benefit your organization”. Being clear about your goals in the job search conveys a sense of authority and competence that helps the hiring manager see how you will perform in the position.

Think of the cover letter as an expanded version of your business card. Limited space forces you to be selective about what you choose to include. Emphasize the ways you can benefit the organization to show employers they need you!

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Make New Goals for Your Career Search

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

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Your resume is the most important vehicle for sending a positive first impression of you and your skills to hiring managers.  However I hope a strong resume isn’t the only strategy in your tool box for 2011. Many people discount the value of New Year’s Resolutions but recognize the power in writing down intentions. Make a commitment to a successful job search in the coming year by defining your direction. Use the list below or be inspired to come up with your own!

1.  “I will target my job search efforts instead of using the old shotgun approach.”

It’s so easy to send your resume to multiple sites via the Internet, but results are not always optimal. Your resume may become one of hundreds in the hiring manager’s inbox. Target jobs of greatest interest and be diligent about your interactions with those companies as noted in the following intentions for the New Year.

2.  “I will expand my list of contacts by 2 people or organizations each week.”

Add contacts face-to-face, via phone, or electronically. Help new contacts see you as a viable partner in the organization by highlighting how your strengths can further their mission.

3.  “I will improve my resume by emphasizing accomplishments and recent experiences.”

Accomplishments can be communicated to new contacts as well as in revisions of your resume and cover letter.

4.  “I will participate in regional job fairs.”

Job fairs are a great opportunity to reach your weekly contacts goal, make you more visible, and expand your knowledge of the local job market.

5.  “I will make cold calls to regional prospects.”

Calling prospective employers helps you in many ways. You become more than a name in the endless string of resumes. The relationships you develop may leverage an interview and eventually a position.

6.  “I will develop action plans and present to major companies in my job search.”

The action plan is a great strategy and clearly sets you apart from other candidates. Taking time to research the corporation and create a plan that addresses company needs or goals communicates your initiative and unique talents.

7.  “I will use business intelligence and corporate research to revise my cover letter.”

Do research on companies to identify values, projects, and initiatives. Incorporate information into the cover letter by telling prospective employers how your experience and talents solve their problems.

8.  “I will become more active in my professional and community organizations.”

Being active in organizations not only enhances your networking, but may also help you develop additional skills. Serving as member of a Board clearly conveys your leadership skills.

9.  “I will demonstrate my qualities as a solid candidate in every action with potential employers.”

Interactions at every level of the organization reflect on you in the application process. Each phone call, social network posting, and face-to-face contact will be reported up the chain of command. Be deliberate and considerate to be successful.

10.  “I will present a consistent brand in my resume, cover letter, and professional contacts.”

You may have heard President Obama’s brother-in-law describe the importance of behavior on a basketball court in assessing an individual’s overall character. Although not under constant scrutiny when applying for positions, you must be aware that behavioral inconsistencies will be magnified or misinterpreted. Display your best character.

11.  “I will develop an “elevator speech” to use with my expanding professional network.”

Encapsulate key aspects of your skills and professional brand into a 30­-second speech. Use it at every opportunity.

12.  “I will use old-fashioned thank-you notes to follow up all types of contacts and keep my name fresh in people’s minds.”

You may be tempted to send an email note to follow up on a professional meeting. The sheer number of emails most people receive is overwhelming. Sending a hand-written note is another way to distinguish oneself from the crowd.

13.  “I will use social networking sites to my advantage, including adding professional resources, such as resume and career advice consultants.”

Smart use of social media can accelerate progress in your job search. You expand your network and are more likely to be seen by potential employers. Clean up any questionable postings and present yourself professionally to make the best use of social media resources.

14.  “I will continue my professional development activities to improve my skills, expand my network, and maintain my enthusiasm.”

Participating in professional development activities becomes even more critical during employment gaps. You gain focus, new ideas, and strategic contacts.

Most importantly, don’t become discouraged.  A job search can be daunting, but with a specific plan, you can re-gain a sense of control and direction. Well-defined intentions can provide a framework for a successful job search. Be confident as you move into the New Year. Armed with effective goals, you can make this your year to secure a new job!

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!