Recently, I caught up with an ex-colleague who was in-between jobs. As he knew I was a headhunter in my previous life, he took the opportunity to seek my advice.
"Hey Rich, you know, the job market is booming but I'm having difficulties landing a job. I think it's because I've been out of the market for eight months.
How do I explain this away when I go for interviews?"
Over a sip of coffee, I tried my best to be guru-like to earn my cup of coffee and said, "Well, the best way to explain that employment gap in your resume is ... not to have one. "
If looks could kill ...
Lest I be accused of living under a rock or in a cave somewhere up in the mountains, I do remember the anguish caused by global financial crisis two years ago where many lost their jobs. I am also aware of others who left promising careers to look after ailing loved ones or to bring up their children and so forth.
"But sometimes it's unavoidable to have an employment gap, isn't it? I feel like I am trapped in unemployment hell because of this.", asked my visibly annoyed friend.
Continuing my sage-like persona, "Yes, there is much truth in what you've said. And the best way to explain that employment gap in your resume is ... not to have one."
What Some Candidates do to hideI swiftly continued the conversation before my friend could begin to demonstrate his above-average ability to verbosely express the colorful side of almost any known human language.
"My friend, some candidates have this big yawning employment gap which they try to camouflage by listing their employment history in years while deliberately omitting the months. Here's an example,
* 2005 to 2008 - Sales Manager
* 2008 to Current - Sales Director.
Can you easily determine which month this candidate left one job for another? Could this candidate actually be unemployed from Feb 2008 to Nov 2008?
Other candidates use a functional format rather than listing their work history chronologically. This means emphasising job roles and skills throughout the resume and listing a very brief employment history in a section right at the bottom. This is done to divert attention. And there are those who play around with text formatting, such as using smaller fonts for "employment dates" relative to "job titles" or candidates who state that they were on a sabbatical.", I added.
My friend nodded earnestly in agreement before his brow narrowed, "Yes, yes, that's what I found out too and I'm trying to do the same but what do I say when the interviewer eventually asks for precise dates of employment or what I was doing during my Sabbatical? Wouldn't I need to explain what I was doing during the time I was between jobs?"
Trying my best to suppress the grin that was threatening to break out, I intoned "The best way to explain that employment gap in your resume is ... not to have one." while deftly ducking beneath the coffee cup that sailed inches above my head.
So What should I do?Catwoman would have been proud of the feline gracefulness I exhibited in evading numerous pieces of cutlery, both of the metallic and porcelain variety, being flung at me filled with 100% deadly force. After the storm eventually subsided, I gingerly inched my way across the room, avoiding the rather expensive debris, took a huge gulp of courage and sat opposite my visibly fuming friend.
I ventured softly, "It doesn't matter what your reasons are for being in-between jobs, but once you've been jobless for more than two months, you should seriously start doing something proactive that adds value to your marketability. Whether it is right or wrong, fair or unfair, regardless of the reasons for that gap, recruiters and hiring managers tend to view prolonged periods of unemployment negatively. Even if you are home-bound because you need to look after an incapacitated loved one, you can still seek out activities that do not require travelling nor take excessive time away from your care-giving. These activities could include taking courses, starting a small business or volunteering for projects.
Thought clouds were swirling in my friend's head.
Finally, he muttered, "Ok, I agree. But even if I am proactive and make good use of my time during the gap to do stuff that aids my future re-employment, that's still an employment gap right? So you can't say 'the best way to explain that employment gap in your resume is ... not to have one'. Aha, gotcha!"
Courage restored, I tried the sage-like approach again. "Do not try to explain that employment gap in your resume - that's impossible. Instead, only try to realise the truth".
"What truth?", my friend asked.
"Employment doesn't necessary have to mean a full time job with a fixed salary. Many self-employed business owners do not have salaries for the first year. Professionals like Real Estate agents and Insurance agents usually don't have a fixed basic salary component either. Therefore, you see, there is no employment gap. And the best way to explain that employment gap in your resume is ... not to have one.", I intoned.
Tables and chairs flew through the air in an oddly beautiful ballet orchestrated by my friend while he simultaneously radiated the seven colors of the rainbow on his face in rapid succession
"I can only show you the door, you're the one that has to walk through it.", I yelled as I hastily scrambled out of the cafe.
EpilogueAs with most things in life, there is no guarantee. But IF you put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager, all else being equal, which candidate are you likely to hire? The one that was proactive and put in a lot of effort and stayed relevant or the one that didn't?
Don't let that resume gap keep you jobless, the best way to explain that employment gap in your resume is ... not to have one.
By the way, should you be keen in getting Social Media experience in your resume or if you have an interest in sports or hobbies, regardless of your employment status, we're looking for volunteers.
You will receive relevant work experience that you can proudly put on your resume. For solid contributors, we would be glad to back you up in your future job applications with a written and verbal testimonial. In the process, you may even gain valuable contacts or re-establish old contacts. You might even find a job through your volunteer work with us. Even if you have just a few hours a week, we can find a meaningful way to utilize this time.
If you have a friend who can benefit from this career suggestion, do forward or share this with them.
http://www.MindChicClub.com , richard.chai@MindChicClub.com
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by Richard Chai
My Right Eye is a Viewfinder