What You Need to Know about Gaps in Your Resume

“Ahh I have gaps in my resume, now no one will want to hire me!!!”  I hear this all the time and if you’re one of those people who are freaking out because there is a gap or two in your resume, grab a cup of coffee and relax. (Actually I think coffee is supposed to give you some energy from what I’ve heard, but I can drink a cup of espresso and fall asleep an hour later).  You are not the only person in civilization who has had some gaps in their resume.  Employers see this all the time when they review resumes and they completely understand that not everyone is lucky enough to have 20 straight years of working from the time they graduated college.

job applicant passing her documents

It is important though, to be able to frame your resume properly to reflect your career, whether it’s one gap or two and be able to speak to your experiences.  Here’s a couple things to think about when it comes to gaps in your resume.

Don’t Lie:

It is very tempting to just fudge your resume to say 2011 to 2019 instead of 2018 right?  After all, would anyone really even know?  Let’s play that scenario out for a minute and say you make up a date or two on your resume to cover up a year of being out of work.  Let’s say you get the interview and still you decide to pretend you weren’t out of work for a year.  The interview goes great and you get the job.  Fast forward to a week or two into your probationary period and a background check finds that you actually lost your job in 2018 and didn’t work at COMPANY X until 2019.  Now your boss is faced with the fact that she has a liar on her hands and you are either going to get let go or be confronted about the lie and be under a serious microscope right off the bat.  Like my mom used to say, “A lie will always come back to get you”.  Even if you get away with it once or twice, it’s going to catch you at some point.  Even one of the best liars ever Frank Abignale Jr. (from Catch Me If You Can with my man Leonardo DiCaprio) got caught after years and years of forging checks and pretending to be a lawyer and doctor successfully for a period of time.  Just tell the truth, it’ll help you sleep better at night.  Just ask Bernie Madoff, or actually don’t (too soon?) because if he didn’t lie for years and years and take millions of dollars from people, I think he would have slept a little better at night.  Okay fudging a year in a resume probably isn’t as bad as a Ponzi Scheme but you get the point.

Your Resume Doesn’t Have To Be Linear

If you’re someone who has had a gap or two in your resume, you may benefit from organizing your resume in terms of companies where you showed certain skills, or worked in certain industries, rather than going from graduation in a straight line to 2020.  Your resume doesn’t have to be in order from your last job to your first job believe it or not.  You can group your jobs in a way that makes sense but not necessarily by date.  This will help to not draw the employer’s attention away from the fact that you may be out of work for 2 years, or didn’t work as soon as you graduated from college.  It’s not the most traditional type of resume, but it is a way to stand out from the millions of other resumes that look basically the same.

two white printer papers near macbook on brown surface

Add in Some Volunteer Work

If you find that you’ve been out of work for three years and you are having trouble covering it up, think back to what you did during that time that can be included in your resume.  Now I’m hoping and praying that the answer isn’t just sat on the couch eating Fig Newtons and watching Breaking Bad for 3 years in a row (which I wish I could do sometimes.  I’d even go for some Fig Newtons…they aren’t as bad as their reputation.)  If you’ve done some volunteer work or even took a few classes to brush up on some skills, definitely make sure to include that.  If you’re a couple months in to being unemployed and reading this, you might want to think about doing something like that to fill your gap.

It’s important to realize you are going to have to speak to the gap in your resume, so don’t let it catch you off guard when you’re in an interview.  Also to note, if you were a mom who’s been out of work for a while because you’ve been raising children, keep an eye out for a future post on how to navigate that.  If you keep in mind that your resume is a sales pitch for yourself, so if you think about how to best position those gaps while you’re out of work, you’ll be more successful in the application process.  Remember, many people deal with this situation, so you can do it and you will be just fine I promise.

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