Dealing with Employment Gaps on Your Resume

Many people experience gaps in their employment history. There are several legitimate reasons for taking time away from work, either forced or by choice.
The current pandemic has caused a wave of temporary and permanent layoffs, and these breaks in employment can make resume writing a daunting and confusing task. Don’t fret – gaps should not be a deal breaker for hiring managers when appropriately explained.
Here are four things to consider when updating your resume:
Be Honest
Attempting to hide gaps will only raise red flags. Recruiters are experts at sniffing out intentional omissions, and it is always better to explain than leave it up to the imagination. While there are many possible resume formats, employment history with accurate dates is still a minimum expectation of any resume. I regularly receive resumes that indicate “present employment” only to find out that the person left the organization months ago.
If you are currently on a temporary or permanent layoff, I recommend you indicate that in brackets. Here is an example:
Administrative Assistant, ABC Company, May 2015 – April 2020 (currently on a temporary layoff)
This technique works well for your most recent position. However, it is generally not recommended to include your reasons for leaving a company behind every role.
Fill the Gap
If your employment gap was in the past, how did you use your time off? Did you volunteer, travel, or take a course? Perhaps you needed time to care for a family member?
You can briefly include it on your resume:
Sabbatical, Parental Leave, 2004-2006
Volunteer, ABC Charity, 2010-2012
Accounting 101, XYZ College, 2017
Accept a Temporary Position
Some people are under the assumption that accepting a temporary or contract role will make their resume look too jumpy. I beg to differ. Taking on temporary work demonstrates adaptability, a strong work ethic, and a desire to learn new skills – traits that all hiring managers should be screening for.
You can summarize your experience neatly on your resume:
Various administrative roles, David Aplin Group, May-August 2020
Completed four short-term temporary assignments, including data entry and reception coverage.
Focus on Achievements
A resume’s purpose is not to list every task you have ever completed but rather provide an overview of your essential duties. Where the magic starts to happen is when resumes showcase a summary of achievements: specific, quantifiable results that make hiring managers go, “hmmm, this person could do that for our business!”
Using the previous example again:

Administrative Assistant, ABC Company, 2015-2020 (currently on a temporary layoff)
• List top 3 to 5 of your main responsibilities
Key achievements:
• List 1 or 2 things that you are the proudest of achieving in your role
• I.e. Saved the organization $10,000 annually by sourcing a new vendor
The $10,000 cost savings becomes a focal point and should be more critical to a potential new employer than your current layoff situation.
Employers understand that the current job market is challenging. Many good employees may find themselves without work for months on end. If this has happened to you, adapt your resume’s format to tell a story about how you used this time off and draw attention to the key skills that you would bring to your next job. By being authentic and focusing on the positive, your resume will be in a strong position to do its job – land you an interview.

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