5 Tips to Address Gaps in Your Employment History

Gaps in your employment history.  Many people have them.  It’s life; we take time off to raise kids or go back to school or are laid-off, and it takes a while to find the next best-fit job.

You need to address gaps in your employment history. Recruiters and hiring managers will address them when they notice them on resumes and applications as well as during the interview.

However, in order to address gaps in your employment history, you need to understand what employers are looking for. They are looking for progression. They want to see that, over the course of your work life, you have taken on more responsibility and learned more skills. You do not want to give the impression that you lack ambition and do the least amount of work to get by. (NOTE: this also applies if you have worked for a company for over a decade, but that is a subject for another blog).

Remember, during the job search, you are selling yourself. Having long gaps in your employment history is not a good way to sell yourself. It gives the impression that you lack marketable skills and/or the ambition to gain those skills. It can also that indicate that you are incapable of  landing a new job. And the statistics prove that point.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as the duration of unemployment increases, the chance of finding a job decreases. In 2014, 35 percent of people who had been unemployed for less than 5 weeks found employment. That number drops to 11 percent for people who have been unemployed for a year or more.

Therefore, it is in your best interest to quickly transition to a new job. Here at Snelling, we have 5 tips to help you address those pesky gaps in your employment history.

Do not wait for the interview.

Some job hunters wait to try and explain their spotty employment history during an interview. The problem is that if gaps are not addressed on the resume and/or application, there will not be an interview. Hiring managers and recruiters try to figure out the story around the lack of employment. You do not want them doing that. You want to be in control of the story.

Address the gap in your resume and/or application.

Emphasize what you did to propel your career forward and what marketable skills you acquired during your time off from work. For example, if you are writing a chronological resume and you took classes (and/or earned a degree), list them. Earned a certification (or two)? List them? Taught yourself to weld? List it. Volunteered? Explain your roles and responsibilities exactly how you would if you were being paid to do that job (including quantifying your achievements).

Tell “why” you are no longer at your previous job.

If you company declared bankruptcy or had a massive layoff or moved jobs offshore, state that. This is not uncommon and usually happens during a recession. If you tell the story around your employment gap, you are not leaving it up to the recruiter’s imagination.

If you left voluntarily, stay positive.

Don’t ever say that you “couldn’t stand company policy” or that your “boss was a nutcase”. First, it is not professional. Second, it will make the recruiter or hiring manager wonder what you will say about them. There are many acceptable reasons to leave – sabbaticals, traveling the world, pursuing an advanced degree (or obtaining a bachelors degree) or acting as a long-term caregiver for a family member, etc. If there is a purpose to the gap, state it.

Don’t have a gap.

Now this may seem like something that is out of your control. However, if you pay attention in your workplace, you will know when the time has come to search for new opportunities. Are other employees quitting in droves? Has there been a mass layoff? Will there be more? Are paychecks being delayed? Read the tea leaves. The signs are there usually long before any pink slips are passed out. The best way to find a new job is to have a job. However, if you do leave voluntarily, look at contract work or temporary work to fill in the gaps. That can kill two birds with one stone. First, you eliminate any employment gap, and, second, you are exposing yourself to new environments, processes and business practices. In other words, you are advancing your skills and improving yourself- the two big things that hiring managers and recruiters look for when you start looking for full-time employment.

When you proactively address your employment history, you take charge of your career. And that is a great place to be. So if you are looking to fill some gaps in your employment history or ready to begin looking for full-time employment, let Snelling help. We have plenty of resources to help you put your best foot forward – on a resume or on an application or during an interview.  So locate your local Snelling office, and let’s get started.