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How to explain & overcome gaps in your resume

  • It’s a candidate controlled market, and skilled workers can afford to be choosy in deciding how and where they want to work. However, even the most talented of professionals will find it difficult to get a gig if they have red flags on their resume.

    Like major gaps in work history.

    If you’re not minding the gaps in your resume, you can be sure that a recruiter or hiring manager will ensure to read between the lines, most likely forming their own assumptions about your experience—or lack thereof. 

    So, if you have any employment gaps in your work history, here are some tips to filling them in, so a potential offer doesn’t slip through the cracks.

    How long is too long of a gap?

    Typically, anything longer than three months is a recruitment red flag. Procom’s Director of Recruitment, Wendy Kennah explains, “I would say anything under three months is not alarming because it could be market conditions, time of the year, etc. that made it difficult to find the next project. Anything longer than three months without an explanation makes it something you should call out explicitly on the resume.”

    THE DO’S
    DO recognize and explain! 
    An in-person explanation simply won’t suffice (recruitment red flags prohibit this sort of thing), but you can provide your reasons right in the body of your resume and LinkedIn profile by listing the months and year(s).

    January 2015 – June 2016: Maternity Leave

    Lindy Sellers, a Technical Recruiter with Procom agrees, “Many candidates I speak with who have gaps on their resume don’t initially provide any explanation. Many of our VMS Clients require this when submitting resumes to open positions, so it’s a conversation I have quite frequently.”

    Typical explanations: 
    When explaining any gaps, be honest, but not too personal. “It should clearly be stated as Sabbatical and should provide the reason. Even if it is something private, they should put it as personal,” says Jenna Craig, a Technical Recruiter with Procom. Typical sabbaticals include:
    • Maternity leave
    • Extended travel
    • Volunteering
    • Freelancing/Other projects 
    • Studying/Education
    • Caregiving
    • Illness/injury

  • DO be sure your resume and LinkedIn align 
    When writing and proofing your resume, always make sure the dates, skills and experience match what you have listed on your public LinkedIn profile.  “Recruiters and hiring managers will look at both,” says Marnie Pertsinidis, an Account Manager with Procom. She finishes, “If they don’t align, it won’t lend credibility to either, and will raise questions about your work history.” 

    DO list industry related activities
    Experience comes from many forms, and even though you many not have been professionally employed, your personal activities could have provided position-related insights. Amie Greco, Procom’s Recruiting Assistant agrees, “Candidates can explain their employment gaps by including other experience they gained during their unemployment. For example, any volunteer/freelance work or studies that were done during that time that relate to the field or position.” 

    DON’T Ignore the gaps
    “First and foremost, don’t leave the time blank. Period! Be aware that you can not sweep it under the carpet,” advises Vikas Vats, a Technical Recruiter with Procom. Leaving gaps raises doubts, and what happens again when one is left to “assume….?”

    DON’T extend dates or lie
    Pinnochio’ing your resume will not land you the position. Ana Algernon, a Technical Recruiter with Procom says, “Never extend previous jobs to make it look like you were with that Client or company during the time you were actually unemployed. During a reference check, we will find out the exact end date and this can cause problems during an offer stage.”  Any staffing agency will also use an Applicant Tracking System, and robots don’t forget!  It will keep track of every resume you’ve ever submitted, and if the employment dates don’t add up, neither will your credibility. 

    Employment…… Sometimes the destination is in the details.
  • Are you working with a staffing agency to find your next great opportunity? 

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