You’ve spent time perfecting your resume and writing a stellar cover letter. You have excellent references that can speak volumes of nice words about you and a ton of experience that makes you the best candidate. The only thing standing between you and your dream job is the employment gap on your resume. Whether the time off is from spending time with a sick family member, traveling, unemployment, or going back to school, employers may rush to a judgment when they see a gap. More than likely they’ll question the period of unemployment during the interview. However, a gap on your resume isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Here are a few tips to successfully explain your time off, without scaring off the employer.
Discuss growth opportunities.
Not all employment gaps are due to layoffs or getting fired. You may have taken time off to take courses or freelance, both which can make you a better candidate for the job. If you took courses, inform the interviewer what kind of classes you took and explain how what you learned will bring value to this new position. If you freelanced, talk about what type of projects you worked on and what you accomplished during that time. If you helped a spouse or family member with business tasks or ran events at your child’s school, talk about these opportunities. For time spent traveling, discuss culture and customs you experienced. All of these things are opportunities that fostered learning and personal growth. It’s up to you to make the employer see what your growth during your time off will bring to the table in the new job.
Discuss potential skills learned while not working.
Think about the skills you developed through your course work, freelance, and volunteer opportunities. If you took up multiple freelance projects, you learned time management and project management skills. If you volunteered with a non-profit, you may have developed fund-raising, administration, and event planning skills. These are valuable skills that can easily transfer to paid opportunities.
Above all else, make sure you tell the truth when explaining your time off. Have you been searching for a job after a lay off? Did you take time off to be with children or elderly parents? Were you trekking across Europe or diving in the Great Barrier Reef? Just because you were laid off from a company or were fortunate enough to spend time traveling, isn’t a surefire reason to not hire you. However, being dishonest about it is. Don’t omit a company from your resume, only because parting ways was their choice and not yours. Unemployment happens. Explaining the situation honestly lets the employer know that you have integrity and confidence. These are two traits that any employer values in a job candidate. Hiring managers are sympathetic and understand that finding employment in today’s economy isn’t an easy task.
Tout your past career experience.
If you haven’t filled your time off with relevant volunteer or freelance experience, you’re not out of luck. Just because you haven’t used a certain skill in a few months or years, doesn’t mean that the skill has vanished. Discuss experiences in your past jobs that are still relevant in the current marketplace. For example if you used quantitative customer service skills managed multistep projects using Microsoft Project, these skills will still be relevant. Discussing these skills shows the employer that you’re on top of your game and ready to get back in the workforce.
An employer won’t always question an employment gap on your resume, but it’s best to go into an interview prepared to talk about it. Not being able to explain your time off or trying to gloss over it looks worse to the employer than the gap itself. As long as you are confident and spin the gap to your advantage, the employer will feel more confident about you as the right candidate.
If you’re having a difficult time in your job search, and the unemployment gap is widening by the minute, give the experienced recruiters at RealStreet Staffing a call. RealStreet Staffing matches experienced construction professionals with rewarding career opportunities in the Federal, architectural, construction and engineering communities. We’ll help you gain immediate access to a wide variety of assignments to get you back in the workforce in no time.