Resume Gaps


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For so many of us there are now gaps in our resumes. These are times that we did not work and with the economy the way it has been the last ten years, there are many more than there used to be. So what do you do with this information? How should you address the gaps in your resume in order to keep the hiring manager from just overlooking you because of them?

Good workers can have gaps in their resumes. However I had learned from experience that 90% of those with gaps in their resumes had been fired or walked off jobs and could not get another job. I did not take the chance.

This was prior to 2006 through the present. Now there will still be people with gaps in their resume for those reasons. However there will also be maybe 20-50% of the candidates with gaps due to layoffs and downsizing in a bad economy. Keep in mind though that when a company has to downsize or lay off some employees, they do not layoff their best employees. As a hiring manager, I am still going to be skeptical of those gaps in your resume.

So what to do? You have a couple choices. You can present a chronological resume with the gaps filled with some form of information or you can present a functional resume that does not deal with the gaps at all. Again I will tell you that as a hiring manager, I like functional resumes and I have a healthy skepticism about functional resumes.

So what do you do about these gaps in your employment on a conventional resume?

  • If there is a legitimate reason for the gap – you were laid off, you had surgery, your parent was terminally ill – just be honest and upfront about it.
  • Only list the years you worked on a job not the months. Example Instead of June 2005- May 2009 and then the next job is not until Dec 2009 don’t list the months. Say job A 2005-2009 and job B 2009 – present. Now there is no gap in your resume. Be prepared to answer any questions you receive about this at the interview though.
  • Say you were fired in 2005 and did not work again until 2008 because you were taking training courses towards a certificate and an associate degree. The fact that you were let go never has to come up. Put the time you did not work – 2005-2009 in the education section at the top of the page and in the chronological section put one line that says you were pursuing additional training and education.
  • Just leave the gap there and explain it in the cover letter or the interview. Never tell the interviewer you were fired unless specifically asked. Tell them the job was not a good fit for you which it obviously was not if you were fired. On the other hand do not lie. Do not say you were laid off if you were fired. Remember that the hiring manager can call your previous employer for a reference check.
  • If worse comes to worse and you were fired and have to admit it, tell the hiring manager what you learned from the experience and how much more mature you are now.

Just remember that gaps in your resume don’t have to be job killers. They just have to be ignored or explained. I can live with your not working for 6 months while your mother was dying or you were laid off. I can’t live with your lying about it.