This week's job searching tip deals with gaps in employment on your resume. If, by looking at your resume, an interviewer can see an obvious gap between recent jobs, their perception of what that gap means could hurt your chances of being considered for a job. This week's tip discusses strategies for dealing with these gaps.
QUESTION FROM A SUBSCRIBER: What is best way to handle being away from job market for an extended period of time (over 2 years) both on resume and in interviews? My absence was due to medical/psychological difficulties and I want to be honest, but discrete. Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Dear K.M., If an employment gap is short or occurred several years ago, most employers and recruiters won't notice and you probably don't need to bring it up unless they do. However in your case, it sounds like gap is noticeable. There are several ways you can deal with situation.
USING A FUNCTIONAL RESUME
A solution many resume writers would recommend is to use a functional resume instead of a chronological one. This can work if you have a complex job where you have achieved many things in various areas. For example, a programmer who has worked with several technologies could legitimately use a functional resume, dividing up resume by technologies worked with instead of time periods. This can also work with other technical professions like engineers, attorneys, etc. If work you do is rather straightforward and you work with a fairly limited range of skills, using a functional resume could make it seem like you're trying to hide your dates of employment.
If you do use a functional resume, many people looking at it will still want to know what kinds of companies you've worked for and what most recent employer's line of business was. You can deal with this by including a note above your list of experiences indicating most recent employer's name, location and line of business. In this same section you can list other employer names and lines of business you have worked in.
INCLUDING AN EXPLANATION OF THE GAP
Another approach is to include an explanation of gap on resume itself. This makes sense to do if using a functional resume instead of a chronological one would seem odd because your profession doesn't lend itself to such a resume format. It's also important to note that most people reading resumes prefer chronological format. If you have a legitimate story as to why you have a gap in your employment dates that most people could sympathize with and understand easily, just being forthright and listing it on your resume is fine.