In 2005, we all would be hard pressed to find many people who have not had at least one gap in their employment history over the last 15 years. A source of concern for any of these individuals is how to display their experience in their Resume in order to project themselves in the best possible light.
At this point in time, most Hiring Managers are understanding when viewing the resume of someone who has a gap in their employment. The days of someone working exclusively for one employer for 20+ years is a rarity in the modern work environment.
A Job Seeker obviously has an easier story to tell when one has been a victim of a downsizing. I recommend being as forthright as possible when explaining in an interview why you were downsized. You do have to keep in mind, however, that sometimes Employers will select individuals for downsizing based on a combination of business needs and individual performance. A savvy Job Seeker will want to make sure the emphasis is placed, when communicating to a prospective employer, on the business related reasons for the downsizing.
- If a large number of individuals were downsized, make sure you weave that into any communication with the Hiring Manager. This will reassure them that you were just one of many that was downsized.
- If there was a specific business reason such as the loss of a big contract, then communicate that to your prospective Employer. This is assuming you are not breaking any confidentiality agreements by providing this information. Consider informing the Hiring Manager that you are very interested in joining a growing or stable organization where you can have a lengthy stay.
- There may have been a department level reason to your downsizing. If so, then this should be communicated. For example, if a portion of your job was transferred to a 3rd party; make sure that this information is provided.
If you have only one gap then most likely you will not have to do much more than answer a question if it is asked about your gap. An exception would be if you have a gap to do childcare. A simple proactive statement in your Cover Letter would allow the prospective employer to immediately move forward, most likely without even asking about it. If you have multiple gaps in your employment, then you are in a more challenging position. This will likely require you to be a little more proactive in your communication either by a brief mention in your Cover Letter or weaving it into your interview. Be prepared in the interview to explain why you joined certain organizations. A Hiring Manager may question your judgment if you selected positions that in their view appeared shortsighted, such as an organization with well-known financial problems. You do not want to, however, dwell on the negative nor sound defensive so this should be done strategically. Your reasons for leaving should be left off the Resume since that document should be purely positive and the format of a Resume does not give you the ability to accurately explain your departure.
What else can Job Seekers do if presented with a gap in their employment?
- Fill the gap productively!Use this time to enrich your skills through educational opportunities. Volunteer with charitable organizations that you always wanted to assist but never had the time. Employers dislike when someone appears to take their loss of employment as an opportunity to receive a vacation either through severance or unemployment. By using your time for educational or charitable purposes you are displaying your commitment and maturity.
- Consider using the “Functional Resume” format. A “Functional Resume” links your experience by clusters of skills. Most experienced Hiring Managers prefer to see a “Chronological Resume” fearing that the “Functional Resume” is hiding something and quite often it is used for that exact purpose. The “ Functional Resume” should be saved for when your Resume has so many gaps that you want to attract initial interest and fear that you will never do so with a “Chronological Resume”.
- If you worked a series of temporary jobs during your absence you should not feel that every position must be listed on your Resume. Short-Term roles that do not add to the marketing of yourself can be omitted on your Resume. When you are required to complete a job application inquire as to whether you need to list temporary jobs on the document.
- Take the emphasis off your dates of employment. You can do this by emphasizing your accomplishments with your previous organizations. If you broke sales records then state it. If your productivity or quality was exceptional then you will want to emphasize it. You may also want to consider in your Resume leading off with a listing of your qualification prior to chronologically stating your work history.
- Be ready to provide references. You will also want to consider, if available, providing a written reference from a previous employer.
Regardless of your strategy you will want to be honest with your prospective employer. Any attempt to mislead a company not only is unethical but will most likely be discovered when reference or background checking.
As always, best of luck in your job search.
The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.
WNY Human Resources Professional
Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at: