OVERCOMING LIABILITIES: Resume Writing Tips – How to Handle Gaps In Employment

It is important when we are discussing overcoming liabilities in your resume that we also take a big step back and look at what I have identified as the three main components of a successful job search. Interestingly, liabilities tend to naturally go away when you have these three steps in place:

  1. A clear focus of direction.
  2. Powerful, professional marketing collateral (resume, value proposition letter).
  3. The right job search strategies.

Again, if you have these three components in your job search, you will do better than the majority of job seekers today.

I would like to give you some tips to handle any gaps in your employment. The purpose for using these tactics and tips as your write your resume is never to lie of course; it is to market yourself so your reader garners enough interest in you to call you for an interview. To do this, you want to minimize any red flags (real or mistakenly perceived).

Gaps in Employment

If, for whatever reason, you have a gap in your employment, it is generally not appropriate to write about the reasons in your resume or cover letter because you run the risk of raising a red flag more so than not. In most cases, your best bet is to minimize attention to the gap. One way you can do this is to use years versus months when listing your dates of employment. Say 2006-2010 versus April 2006 to January 2010.

If you are changing industries and you have some spotty gaps of employment you can organize things while minimizing attention to dates by separating out industry-related and non-industry-related experience. Simply organize your professional history like this:

Industry Related Experience

Position and Title, Location, Date

Position and Title, Location, Date

Other Experience

Position and Title, Location, Date

Position and Title, Location, Date

Use a Functional Resume Format

You can use a single-page resume with your transferrable skills first, followed by your academic credentials, and finally, at the bottom of the page, your professional experience. You can be as brief as just listing the company name, your title, and your dates of employment. This helps to minimize attention to industries and/or positions not relevant to your career goals.

Employment Gaps – Long Job Search or Career Hiatus

If you have been in a long job search or took a hiatus from employment for a time, there are many things you can do to weave this information into your resume in a positive way.

If you have been volunteering, finishing a degree, or doing some independent consulting or project work for your previous company or other companies, you can list this on your resume to minimize a long job search. Here is a possible example:

Consulting Projects (2010-present)

Company 1

Company 2

Company 3

Gaps in Employment Tips

  • Use years, not months.
  • Separate out industry-related and non-industry-related positions.
  • Use a pure functional resume format.
  • Fill in time gaps with volunteer activities, travel experiences, and home management.

Mary Elizabeth Bradford is the Founder and Executive Director of CEOresumewriter.com and Maryelizabethbradford.com and a past executive recruiter. A thought leader in the career services industry for over 20 years, she holds 5 distinct advanced certifications for senior-level resume writing, online branding and executive-level job search coaching (CERM, CMRW, CARW, MCD, NCOPE). She has been seen and heard in major media including Forbes, Time, WSJ, Newsweek and NBC affiliate stations. She holds 2 CDI TORI awards and is a top tier judge for the elite CDI TORI awards for four consecutive years. Mary Elizabeth Bradford’s elite team of award-winning, certified, top executive resume writers, former top executive recruiters, and global HR executives help many of the world’s premier C-suite, board members and thought leaders secure the transitions and compensation packages they want. She works with clients all over the globe.

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