What do I do about gaps in my resume?
By Carl Schumacher
Gaps in your resume are definitely an issue. Have you ever met a women or man that was really hot but when the smiled they had a gap in their teeth you could fit a cigar in? No matter how great the rest of the package is that gap is all you can stare at. So when you think of your resume you should look at it in the same light
There are several types of gaps that can occur on your resume. A few of the most common include "the out of work gap", "the tried a different career gap" and "the I had to handle a personal situation (death, birth or sabbatical to find myself with the monks in Asia) gap".
In this current economy for example, there are huge amounts of people who are, or were, out of work for several months. Some people have been out of work so long that they have to extend their unemployment way past the normal amount. Here are some ways to address handling gaps like these in your resume.
Remove the months from your resume.
If you lost your job in February of 2009 and now it is November of 2010, to say that you worked from 2006 - 2009 looks a whole lot better than saying you have been out of work since February 2009. In fact it is almost a year better. Now some would say this is lying, and certainly some HR types would certainly find this infuriating, as this is info they want to know before talking to you so they can screen you out.
So this brings us to the first and most important rule of resume writing.
Rule #1: Always remember that your resume is a marketing piece.
It is meant to make you look good. If you go on a first date do you tell your date about your crazy uncle who thinks he is an Avocado? Yes, eventually, but not on the first date! In some cases on your resume it is alright to omit something that makes your look bad. But a minor omission is very different then a lie. A lie would be saying that you had an MBA when you never went to college. Beside the fact that it is unethical and wrong, it is stupid to do so as it will definitely bite you in the butt if your potential employer were to find out.
A minor omission would be more something that would not get you fired on your first week when the found out the truth, but might cause your interviewer to ask you about it when they interviewed you. AH HA! Let me repeat that again: "when they interviewed you"! That brings us to Rule #2.
Rule #2: The purpose of your resume is to get you an interview.
So now that you have an interview, as long as you have a good answer to why you omitted the months from you resume like that jerk Carl the Wireless Executive Recruiter blogger told me to do it. Then at least you are being interviewed and no longer a piece of paper, but an actual living breathing person who has a shot at getting the job before being deleted or crumbled in the trash.
Create a consulting business.
Now this is truly a great way to fill a gap and probably the most often used method I know. But I have to say most of the people fall short in the presentation.
Here is a typical example:
2009 - Current
I was the owner of Bob's consulting where I did lots of IT, Telephony and important stuff for many companies. Underneath this he writes a half a page at how great he was & all the cool things he did for 10 years at the fortune 500 job he got laid off at. So what's wrong with this? Here comes Rule # 3
Rule #3: Sell it baby! If you don't who will?
There is nothing wrong with putting Bob's consulting on your resume, though when you started it you might have been a little more creative than that with the name. But if that's what it is, then here's what you do.
Write a paragraph that sells the crap out of Bob's Consulting. Make it sound like you were saving the world. Use bullet points & underlines and all the fancy things you did with your fortune 500 job. Don't write it as an afterthought to just put something on the page to fill the gap. Sell it baby like it means something!
Paint the best picture you can.
I recently coached a candidate for an interview that will illustrate this point. He was desperate for the job. Flat broke and his lack of finances was severally impacting his personal life and even his survival. He had been out of work for almost 2 years! So we role played the night before and one of the questions I asked him was what have you been doing for the last 2 years?
His answer was "I have been doing some part time consulting when I can, it doesn't pay much, but at least I am surviving." Wrong answer!
What I coached him to say was: "The market has been very tough and a lot of the roles I saw available for someone at my level were opportunities with companies I did not believe in. Rather than taking a job with a company I knew I would not be happy at and would probably be short lived, I did some consulting until the right job came along. And this is that right job." He applied the same attitude to all his answers and is happily work at his new job now!
Now on your resume where you have a gap you can say something like from 2009 - current after a massive company layoff I took some time to spend renovating my house and getting to know my wife and children better. I am now ready to get back to a fulfilling career. Something like this is definitely better than leaving a gap.
If you leave a gap you can bet someone will be thinking you were just drinking beer in your underwear and watching Judge Judy.
Hmmm... I have to go now. I am out of Bud and I need to pick some more up to get back to the show before she gives the final verdict!
Carl Schumacher - Career Coach, Executive & Technical Recruiter