Generally speaking, gaps in your work experience look bad and/or questionable to potential employers. It’s hard for them to guess at what you might have been doing in the time that you weren’t working.
Was there a period in your adult life when you weren’t working professionally? That fact might be reflected on your current resume. If that’s the case, you need to edit your resume to start filling those holes before sending out more job applications.
It’s possible that you were legitimately busy with other activities, like caring for children, the elderly, volunteering, etc. Unfortunately, a hiring manager will probably assume the very worst about your time not working.
So even if you weren’t being a potato chip eating couch slob during your time off, it’s best to find a way to fill in that gap and make sure the hiring manager can’t stereotype you.
Here’s how to do that:
1. Don’t include months
If you worked from January of 2011 to August of 2012, and then started working again in August of 2013, then you have an entire year of being jobless. Right?
Well, you can easily hide that information by simply eliminating the month that you started working. Then it looks like you worked from 2011-2012, and 2013 to the present. This way, there is no obvious gap in experience.
Obviously, that information will likely be brought up in an interview, so you should have a response prepared. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend trying this unless you had more than six months of experience.
2. Include volunteer work
Volunteer work is a perfectly legitimate way to spend your time. It’s very likely that you learned or honed some skills and earned some achievements while volunteering, many of which may be perfectly relevant to the new jobs that you’re applying for.
It doesn’t matter if your work experience wasn’t paid — it’s all about what skills you learned, and whether you can apply them in a new position.
Best of all, reporting on that volunteer work will help to eliminate your work experience gap. Use tip #1 and eliminate the months you started and ended if that will also help your resume look less bumpy.
3. Eliminate old work experience
The basic rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t report work experience that is more than 15 years old. I’d even say that 10 years is more than enough. Also consider a functional resume format.
Therefore, if you have any gaps in work experience from that period of time, you can simply eliminate those weak spots by deleting all of it anyway!
4. Explain it in your cover letter
In some cases, it’s impossible to finesse the details, and you’re going to be left with an obvious gap in work experience on your resume. If that’s the case, your best bet is to use your cover letter to explain why you were not working professionally for an extended period of time.
This is the best place to inform the hiring manager that you were busy with familial duties or were responsible for other arrangements that aren’t appropriate to put directly on your resume. And, of course, make sure your cover letter looks great! Try our free cover letter writing tool for assistance.
5. Use a qualifications summary
I’ve written another blog post on why you should write a qualifications summary instead of a career objective. Read that now if you haven’t!
This is just one more good reason to write a qualifications summary – it places your skills, achievements, and abilities at the top of the resume, and is completely disassociated from dates in general.
Frankly, the hiring manager will probably not look at your resume for too long before deciding that you possess the relevant skills and attributes necessary to do the job well – so this is an excellent strategy for hiding the weak spots on your resume.
6. Shrink the size of your dates
What you can’t see won’t hurt you. Don’t be make the font a ridiculously small size, but simply bold and enlarge the text around it, and then shrink the size of the dates themselves. It’s a psychological ploy, but it can work.