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Job Seekers Want to Know…What Do You Really Think About Employment Gaps?

Spill! (You know you want to…)

So back in April, my colleague over at The Work Buzz discussed things job seekers should leave off of their resumes, including gaps in work history. Transferring the advice of career coach and author Catherine Jewell, blogger Kate Lorenz wrote that job seekers should eliminate gaps in work history and replace them with short, truthful statements (such as “homemaker sabbatical” to explain a five-year work hiatus).

….But my question is, when job seekers don’t know to do this (or even if they do) does having a gap in work history automatically put the candidate at a disadvantage in the eyes of the interviewer?

Surely, as the job market opens up, and as most companies begin rehiring at a faster rate, hiring managers and recruiters are likely to see a lot of resumes with gaps in work history.

What we want to know is: What’s the best way for job seekers to explain gaps in work history – from the cover letter…to the resume…to the interview? Or can they?

Especially now, do job seekers still carry a stigma when it comes to having gaps in their work history? (And if so, how can they eliminate it?) Talk to us, or better yet…

Share your success stories! Ever hire a candidate despite having a significant gap in work history – only to have him or her prove himself as a top performer?

(P.S. Got something to say, but don’t want to leave it as a comment? Feel free to email me your stories instead!)

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
17 comments
michaelsemail01
michaelsemail01

An Employer's concern is whether or not a candidate can adequately perform the job.

Some recruiters will attempt to surmise conclusions about a candidate's work ethic, drive, stability and any number of other subjective aspects, but that should be handled during the interview, not by assumptions predicated on bits of information like the duration between employment.

 

Don't focus on things that cast an inaccurate and negative light.  Do your best to communicate your true abilities and reliability.

joef
joef

Oh, and another thing that might happen to us "long term unemployed" is what's happened to me: I work for my own living, although making allot less than I once did, am more balanced, less freaked out, am spending more time on self-education and at this pace do believe I should come out being extremely qualified either for an employer who meets my standards and vice versa, or more preferrably to start my own business.

joef
joef

I have a bit of an issue with the whole thing. I think that a job seeker looking for a job should hold him or herself as a business person looking to offer something to another business person, not as a serf who has to make an accounting for what he or she has been up to all the time. For example, let's say that I had two hundred grand in my account and, upon being laid off, decided that I simply didn't WANT to work for the next five years. So, during an interview, the potential employer asks me why I wasn't working at that time. My answer, as an adult in a free country, would and should be: "I didn't want to". And that's IT! Now, if you were in North Korea, you might sweat and stutter out some excuse, like a child when an accounting has been demanded of by a parent. But, assuming we are NOT in one of those countries, we should never, EVER act as though we are! And an employer who thinks iin terms other than what somebody can offer NOW simply isn't thinking on their feet! Plain and simple!

Amanda
Amanda

My advice to people with an employment gap is to put your accomplishments and skills at the top of your resume so I keep reading and want to interview you. I don't immediately dismiss a resume just because there is a gap in employment. I think it is almost expected in this economy. It is only fair to give a qualified applicant the opportunity to explain their situation.

Amanda
Amanda

My advice to people with an employment gap is to put your accomplishments and skills at the top of your resume so I keep reading and want to interview you. I don't immediately dismiss a resume just because there is a gap in employment. I think it is almost expected in this economy. It is only fair to give a qualified applicant the opportunity to explain their situation.

Sara
Sara

I have been out of work for 15 months now after being laid off in May 2009. I can tell you that having a long gap in employment certainly has a stigma with it. In August 2009, I took a consultant job with a tax firm for no pay. Why? Because the pay was actually less than the unemployment. I still get the unemployment while I am actively looking for a full time job, get the experience of staying on top of the industry and now no longer have a large gap on my resume. My recruiter advised me to put this on my resume even though I am not getting paid. She said most employers will not even look at resumes now in which a person is currently out of work, especially for a long time. There is still the stigma that if you got laid off and have not yet found a job, than you must be doing something wrong or are an incompetent employee. Most of us know this is true, but the HR Departments of employers could care less and don't want to deal with it. It's grossly unfair, but that is the reality.

Linda
Linda

Well, I was hoping that Career Builder would finally publish the answers to this and the other questions we posed when asked what they should ask HR managers.

My answer to the "resume gap" question is that in my personal opinion is you should always stay busy. I agree that you should mention volunteering, if it's done within your industry, any part time work you may be doing and any courses you may be taking. After about 6 months of a retail job I now feel comfortable mentioning it on my resume. I didn't want to add it right away as I wanted to make sure that I would acquire some transferable skills.

You can read more about my tips on my blog:
http://ourunemployedlife.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/explaining-gaps-in-your-resume/

Linda

Linda
Linda

Well, I was hoping that Career Builder would finally publish the answers to this and the other questions we posed when asked what they should ask HR managers.

My answer to the "resume gap" question is that in my personal opinion is you should always stay busy. I agree that you should mention volunteering, if it's done within your industry, any part time work you may be doing and any courses you may be taking. After about 6 months of a retail job I now feel comfortable mentioning it on my resume. I didn't want to add it right away as I wanted to make sure that I would acquire some transferable skills.

You can read more about my tips on my blog:
http://ourunemployedlife.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/explaining-gaps-in-your-resume/

Linda

Trainmann
Trainmann

What do you put down if you've been looking for work for the last 18 months, and haven't done anything more constructive than housekeeping and minor home repairs?

Kristin Hughes
Kristin Hughes

Employment gaps are definitely noticed on the resume. I think it is BEST to really look at your resume as if you were a hiring authority and ask yourself if there are any "unanswered questions." If there is a five year gap, and no explanation for it.. plus there is a stack of 500 applications/resumes to sort through, it is much easier (sorry, but it is true) for the reviewer to just MOVE ON to the next applicant than try to figure out what this candidate has been doing! I ALWAYS encourage stay at home moms, people that left for illnesses, whatever their reason, to put a SHORT description of this on the resume.. one line that sums it up. DO NOT go into long detail about how you were the "Boy Scout troup leader, PTA president, Organized kid's school schedules, coordinated soccer practice.." You always need to keep the focus of your resume on the job that you are trying to get-- target your experiences towards this and really make yourself stand out! The resume is essentially your "first impression" and it needs to get you in the door--make yourself stand out, be honest of course, b/c you need to be able to back yourself up. But this is just a stepping stone to getting you an interview. Keep the gap explanations short and sweet, but definitely some type of info on WHAT you were doing, is needed, and appreciated.

Kristin Hughes
Kristin Hughes

Employment gaps are definitely noticed on the resume. I think it is BEST to really look at your resume as if you were a hiring authority and ask yourself if there are any "unanswered questions." If there is a five year gap, and no explanation for it.. plus there is a stack of 500 applications/resumes to sort through, it is much easier (sorry, but it is true) for the reviewer to just MOVE ON to the next applicant than try to figure out what this candidate has been doing! I ALWAYS encourage stay at home moms, people that left for illnesses, whatever their reason, to put a SHORT description of this on the resume.. one line that sums it up. DO NOT go into long detail about how you were the "Boy Scout troup leader, PTA president, Organized kid's school schedules, coordinated soccer practice.." You always need to keep the focus of your resume on the job that you are trying to get-- target your experiences towards this and really make yourself stand out! The resume is essentially your "first impression" and it needs to get you in the door--make yourself stand out, be honest of course, b/c you need to be able to back yourself up. But this is just a stepping stone to getting you an interview. Keep the gap explanations short and sweet, but definitely some type of info on WHAT you were doing, is needed, and appreciated.

Jessalyn Cotter
Jessalyn Cotter

Employment gaps are definitely noticed on the resumes. However, it depends on the length of time between jobs, and what the job market was like at the time of the gap that makes a difference in how that gap is perceived. Gaps of a few mo...nths, in most cases, do not require an explanation. Gaps of a few years look better if there is a short explanation as to why the gap exists, listing the years in question. With more employers using background checks on job seekers, the recommendation is to be honest, because employers will be able to confirm your employment history.

Josh White
Josh White

I believe that employment gaps are always perceived as negative at first due to inevident prejudice, however, I believe listing reasons for the termination of the engagement can prove beneficial to the individual. It always seems to catch my eye.

Kiel Werner
Kiel Werner

Job gaps are going to happen to anyone. Whether if its 2 days, 2months or a full year out of work. I advise all job seekers that I speak with that they are best off to be honest about the last job they had. I perceive the difference in job seekers who have been out of work who attain new employment after a gap and those who don’t to be what have you done in your time. I work in Information technology and if you aren’t into the business you could lose valuable skills that employers want to see on a resume. These skills might be people interaction, technology knowledge base of the newest technology stack. I advise people if you volunteer, do contract work, go back to school, learn a new skill highlight that in almost a “consultant” part of the resume to show what’s been going on since the last full time position. In the cover letter and the interview talk about what you have learned new, what have you done to keep your skills sharp and be confident. A lot of the news out there is really negative about the current long term unemployed and some people see it as a “negative” but I would be positive, be confident. Talk about the positives and 9 times out of 10 a good time will come from it. I helped a Project manager ascertain a position after being out of work for about a year into a long term contract opening in his field. He exhibited a lot of the confidence, learning and knowledge I spoke about and the company saw it as a good find.

Kiel Werner
Kiel Werner

Job gaps are going to happen to anyone. Whether if its 2 days, 2months or a full year out of work. I advise all job seekers that I speak with that they are best off to be honest about the last job they had. I perceive the difference in job seekers who have been out of work who attain new employment after a gap and those who don’t to be what have you done in your time. I work in Information technology and if you aren’t into the business you could lose valuable skills that employers want to see on a resume. These skills might be people interaction, technology knowledge base of the newest technology stack. I advise people if you volunteer, do contract work, go back to school, learn a new skill highlight that in almost a “consultant” part of the resume to show what’s been going on since the last full time position. In the cover letter and the interview talk about what you have learned new, what have you done to keep your skills sharp and be confident. A lot of the news out there is really negative about the current long term unemployed and some people see it as a “negative” but I would be positive, be confident. Talk about the positives and 9 times out of 10 a good time will come from it. I helped a Project manager ascertain a position after being out of work for about a year into a long term contract opening in his field. He exhibited a lot of the confidence, learning and knowledge I spoke about and the company saw it as a good find.

Jessalyn Cotter
Jessalyn Cotter

With the way that the economy has been, it is best to put down the month and date your last position ended. You can state in your cover letter that you have been actively seeking employment for the last 18 months. There is no stigma about being unemployed with the current economy. There are many others highly qualified candidates in similar situations. Good luck with your search.

Jessalyn Cotter
Jessalyn Cotter

With the way that the economy has been, it is best to put down the month and date your last position ended. You can state in your cover letter that you have been actively seeking employment for the last 18 months. There is no stigma about being unemployed with the current economy. There are many others highly qualified candidates in similar situations. Good luck with your search.

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