We all know that resumes are powerful. Typically, that little document makes or breaks your chances at taking part in the interview process; so, understandably, everyone wants theirs to look pristine. However, what if you have one or two sizable employment gaps in your work history? Will these gaps be a blemish on an otherwise well thought-out and organized resume? What is the most effective way to explain employment gaps on resumes, anyway?
You may be tempted to play-down or otherwise mislead a hiring manager with your resume by employing tricks like only listing the length of employment in years as opposed to month/year, or trying to down play those gaps by employing smaller fonts – don’t do this!
I’m sure your mom always told you “honesty is the best policy,” and she was right. We recommend being as honest and transparent as possible when building your resume, even if there are employment gaps in it. Hiring managers are very good at sniffing out dishonesty on a resume and it will result from you being disqualified for any other position in the organization.
So what should you do?
“Honestly, if it’s anything less than six months, it’s not really a substantial ‘gap.’ Don’t stress about mentioning it,” says Parker’s Recruiting Manager, Kelli Whitecar. “I would say you absolutely should address gaps that exceed 2 years in length directly on your resume.”
An italicized line between two jobs that explains your unique situation is an easy solution. Something like, “From May 2012-February 2014, I left my career to become a caretaker for my father while he was ill.”
Now, if you have multiple significant gaps throughout your career, Kelli says pick and choose notes in your resume wisely. “You don’t want the employment gap statements to speak louder than your work experience. Do your best to find the balance; if a gap was more than five years ago, don’t worry about it. You’ve had plenty of strong, recent work experience since then to more than make up for it.
If you have a significant employment gap that falls in/around the Great Recession (2007-2009), it’s typically understood. Not to worry, according to Kelli. “Honestly, smart organizations with smart recruiters will take one look and know. It has no negative bearings on your employability since there was job loss across the nation.”
There’s one thing that people sometimes forget to include, which could really help close those gaps, and that’s volunteer experience! Senior Recruiter, Gayle Luchini jumps in – “If you did some volunteer work with core responsibilities and tasks, you should be adding that to your resume. It’s still work experience, and it should be accounted for.”
As for stay-at-home parents returning to the workforce, Kelli offers a clever way to display that information on a resume. “I’ve seen Stay-at-Home Moms (SAHMs) list ‘Domestic Manager’ on their resumes, with a few bullets underneath it describing how they manage their household. It’s a creative way to explain the employment gap. Employers and recruiters will appreciate that, while also relating it directly to traditional work experience.”
Caregivers who took time away from their career to care for a sick loved one can use the same creativity in their resumes, too. As long as you are truthful about the tasks and responsibilities you had as ‘Caregiver’ or ‘Domestic Manager,’ then it’s fair to include these experiences in this way.
You’re not alone. We see different ways to display temporary roles all the time. Because of this, we developed a how-to blog post to help job seekers like you.