Resume Gaps: Three Things to Know

Resume Gaps: Three Things to Know
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Then Go Get ‘Em Tiger!

Whether you’ve just completed a training program, or made a decision to go back to work, there’s likely a gap in your resume. This seemingly unaccounted-for time could actually be for education, caregiving for a family member, or due to physical or mental health reasons.

However, it’s up to you how you give a fair and balanced picture that explains inconsistencies in your work history. Let’s look at some ways you can bring clarity to the interview by taking charge of the dialogue when it comes to discussing work history.

Be Clear

Try not to be startled by the interviewer’s questions. Hiring managers typically ask about gaps in employment. Most of us have gaps, and we must plan a response. There is nothing to be ashamed of, but you will want to be prepared to respond concisely, without making excuses or placing blame, should the question be asked.

If the gap was attributable to your health, be clear that you are ready to return to work. No need for utterly complete detail; prospective employers have legal guidelines to abide by when asking questions during an interview.

Try not to communicate defensiveness. Be confident in your response. Remember, the interviewer likely reviewed your resume and saw the gap prior to inviting you to interview for the job.

It’s likely that the manner in which you respond will have more weight on their decision than the nature of your response.

Be Truthful

Some experts suggest painting over periods of unemployment by indicating the years that you worked, rather than risk showing just the few months you may have actually worked on a given job.

Others offer the option of writing a functional resume, which showcases skills acquired followed by a list of positions held. However, as most organizations will verify employment, it is important to minimize potential surprises the company will face when verifying your previous employment.

For example, an applicant may record a six-month gap as short-term employment at a hair salon, but when asked for a reference be forced to admit that they were providing beauty services in their home.

Best to record this on the resume as a period of self-employment, which shows an entrepreneurial spirit as well as a history of resourcefulness. Likewise, don’t embellish the truth; if you were caring for a family member, simply state that.

Don’t Discount Volunteer or Alternative Work

Applicants sometimes minimize their value and past experience because it differs in nature from the job they are currently seeking. It is important to know your skillset and understand how those skills can be transferred from setting to setting.

For example, although people pursuing work as peer support staff may not have previously worked in human services, customer service, relationship building, and good communication skills are nonetheless requisite assets to being an effective worker, whether as a gourmet caterer or peer support worker.

Also, time spent volunteering demonstrates initiative, productivity and ambition. Paid work history is not the only work history.

If you did something totally unrelated but did it extremely well, feature it on your resume. I reviewed a resume that included several years of seasonal landscaping.

The applicant had excellent references; the supervisor pointed out, ‘If the person wasn’t great, I wouldn’t have hired them six years in a row!’

On Incarceration

In New York City, it is illegal for employers to ask applicants about their forensic history until after a conditional offer of employment has been made. Some employers may prefer lived experience of justice involvement, especially if the job entails working with justice-involved participants.

If you worked steadily or in progressively responsible positions while incarcerated, you may wish to consider including that experience on your resume. Monster.com recommends highlighting related work experience, but suggests omitting such experience that is more than 10-years-old.

This is one case where you may prefer to leave the gap on your resume, but talk about the work you did during the interview if it showcases your skills. Use discretion when offering information to an interviewer, and remember, you do not have to discuss it at all. Just bear in mind that most employers will perform a background check after making that conditional offer.

Potential peer support workers may have undergone periods of unemployment as a result of many different circumstances. Be honest and sincere. You can still make this a successful interview!

Remember, the job market for peer specialists has never looked better, and employers want to hire you for your experience!

Pullout: ‘Let’s look at some ways you can bring clarity to the interview by taking charge of the dialogue when it comes to discussing work history.’


by Gita Enders

Gita Enders

Gita Enders

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