Puzzle Piece Missing

How to Make Your Employment History Gaps Work for You

Puzzle Piece Missing
Gaps in your employment history may seem like a major hurdle when applying for a new position, but they don’t have to be. Employers often understand that people have to take time off every once in a while for personal reasons, whether it be to raise children, travel, or deal with a health issue. As long as you’re honest about the reasons for your resume gaps and are able to show that some personal or professional growth resulted from them, potential employers will still be willing to consider you for the job. Here’s how to handle explaining employment history gaps at two stages in the hiring process:

In Your Resume

It’s important to address the fact that you have a gap in your employment history when you’re putting together your resume. Gaps are really hard to miss when you’ve laid out your employment timelines on paper in black and white. Potential employers will likely have questions about why those gaps exist, so it’s better to be upfront about the gaps being part of your employment background and that there is a reason for them.

In your resume, you can mention in a brief statement (one sentence should suffice) why you have a gap in your employment history, if it’s because you took maternity or paternity leave, you needed a personal leave for a health or family issue, you decided to switch gears and look for opportunities in a different field, you ended up going back to school, or you took time off to travel or pursue another personal interest.

Gaps that are due to downsizing or being fired for another reason will likely require deeper explanation during a face-to-face interview, so leaving an explanation until that point is often a good idea. If you have gaps related to periods of contract employment, be sure to indicate that certain positions were term ones in your resume. This helps explain such gaps and the reason for multiple employers or roles within shorter time spans.

Another important thing to do when working on your resume when you have employment history gaps is to think about what you did during those periods of unemployment and what skills were gained from those activities. For example:

  • Did you volunteer or participate in community activities that helped you gain additional skills?
  • When you traveled, what did you learn about other cultures and/or languages?
  • If you took personal time for a health or family issue, what did you learn from that experience?
  • What did you learn about yourself during your time away from work that helped you understand how you work best?
  • Did you stay abreast of industry changes and trends?
  • Did you continue to participate in the finance and accounting industry in some way (for example, through social media sites like LinkedIn)?
  • Did you accomplish a goal while you were unemployed?
  • In what ways did your period of unemployment make you stronger?

If you participated in volunteer or community work, consider creating a section for this in your resume and describe what you did and how it helped others. If you were unemployed because you went back to school, ensure that you include any certifications/designations/courses completed in your resume.

Read: “How to Avoid Leaving a Recruiter with Questions about Your Resume” for more ways to beef up your resume.

In An Interview

Even if you’ve addressed employment history gaps in your resume, you should expect that you will be asked about this if you’re selected for an interview. Some of the questions a potential employer may have when they see gaps in a resume include: “Why hasn’t this person already been hired by someone else?”, “Why did they choose to take time off?”, “Does this person have problems with committing to a career?”, “Does this person have problems getting along with others?”, and “Is this person’s experience out of date?”

Understanding how to present the reasons for your gaps in employment can empower you to get through an interview with confidence and poise.

It’s crucial that you be prepared to answer the questions that will likely come up in regards to your resume gaps. Make a list of the things you learned or developed over the course of your time away from work. How can these experiences and/or skills be applied to the position for which you’re interviewing? Ensure your answers are brief and clear.

Note, however, that employers are prohibited from asking personal questions that are not related to qualifications and job requirements needed for the hiring decision, based on standards set out in the Ontario Employment Standards Act. This means that you can offer information as it directly relates to your work history, but no personal information beyond that is required to be shared by you or asked about by the interviewer.

If your resume gap was the result of downsizing at your previous employer, explain the circumstances that led to the downsizing, including details such as how many other people were laid off at around the same time that you were. Be clear about what you were able to accomplish during your time there, using the S.A.M. method – what you saved, achieved, and/or made. You can also talk about what the experience taught you and how you’ve grown from it.

However you choose to explain your resume gaps and present what benefits came out of your time away from work, make sure you do it by being straightforward, positive, and confident.

Read: “How To Talk About The Gap In Your Work History” for more insight on discussing time taken off from work.

Key Takeaways

  • Having gaps in your employment history doesn’t mean you won’t get the job.
  • Be honest about why you weren’t working for a period of time.
  • In your resume, briefly note why there are gaps.
  • It’s best to have a face-to-face talk about gaps due to downsizing or being fired.
  • Ensure you indicate in your resume any contract positions you’ve held.
  • Include in your resume any skills you gained while taking time off.
  • Consider adding a volunteering/community activities section to your resume.
  • Be prepared to answer interview questions about employment gaps you have.
  • Present yourself confidently and discuss resume gaps in a positive light.
  • Be clear with the interviewer about why you have employment history gaps.
  • Share how you grew professionally or personally during your time off.

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Question, Confused

How to Avoid Leaving a Recruiter with Questions about Your Resume

Question, Confused
How important is making a great first impression with your resume? Well, when you consider the volume of resumes recruiters receive, and the fact that they often have a maximum of two minutes to review each one and make a decision, it becomes pretty darn important.

Your resume may look fantastic and be free of typos, but did you know that there’s another key mistake many candidates make? In much the same way typos and poor formatting can be a deal-breaker, leaving your audience (the person reviewing your resume) with questions is a big no-no.

While resumes can sometimes leave recruiters with good questions (“That looks interesting, I wonder if…?”), more often than not, the questions are due to confusion and could ultimately result in your resume being disregarded.

Here are some tips on how to eliminate the possibility of unwanted questions arising from your resume.

Format Strategically

Resumes that look pretty but don’t include information that a recruiter needs to make a decision are not very useful. Your resume should be simple, clean, and well structured. As mentioned above, recruiters don’t have copious amounts of time to spend with each resume, so a format that makes them work too hard to find relevant information could hurt your chances of moving past the first stage of the hiring process.

Don’t list every single job you’ve ever had, and don’t list every minor task you were responsible for in previous roles. Think big picture. What are the most important things the recruiter needs to know about you as an employee, and what are the best ways of conveying that information?

Avoid using the functional resume format, which lists skills and abilities without including information about your chronological work history, as this doesn’t provide enough information about where you’ve built your experience, and for how long.

Read: “Resume Mistakes Accounting Candidates Make, Pt. I” and “Resume Mistakes Accounting Candidates Make, Pt. II” to learn what other resume mistakes you should avoid.

Use Specifics

Too many resumes include vague statements such as “great communicator”, “fast learner”, and “team player”. This really doesn’t tell recruiters much about you, since most people use these phrases when applying for a job. Instead, opt for brief descriptions about what makes you a “great communicator”, “fast learner”, or “team player” and include specifics wherever possible.

The best specific information to include is quantitative. Mention how many dollars you saved with an idea or initiative you came up with, how many clients you assisted on a daily basis, or how many people you supervised to build a clear picture of your strengths and responsibilities.

Read: “What Finance Recruiters Look for on Your Resume” for more ideas on how to make your resume stand out.

Explain Any Gaps

Gaps in a resume will undoubtedly create questions in the recruiter’s mind. If there are gaps in your chronological work history, be sure to address those as much as possible in your resume. Were you taking time off to go back to school? Were you raising a family? Did you have to take time away for a medical issue? Gaps in your employment aren’t always seen as a negative thing if there are good reasons for them.

Addressing these clearly in your resume can help prevent any questions about whether you take your employment seriously or are someone who has problems sticking with something. It’s also a good idea to mention any personal or professional development that resulted from your time away from work.

If you have worked contract or term positions, these don’t have to be left off of your resume completely. As long as you gained important experience and accomplished specific goals, these can be added along with full-time, long-term positions. Just be sure to spell out why these shorter-term positions are relevant, and specify that they were term positions (so there’s no confusion about why you were in the positions for a shorter period of time).

Show You Understand

One of the biggest questions you should be trying to answer with your resume is, “How does this candidate’s experience and skill set meet the employer’s needs?” By strategically formatting your resume to highlight the most relevant information, as well as clearly explaining what you bring to the table, you’ll be one step closer to securing an interview.

Pinpoint some of the problems the company is trying to solve, or some of the goals they have set, and use the information in your resume to speak to how your presence on their team will serve them well. This requires some research and a willingness to delve deeper into the company’s culture, structure, and needs.

Read: “Tailoring Your Resume” to get tips on how to show an employer you’ve done your research and have created a resume just for them.

Key Takeaways: Your Checklist

  • Use a resume format that is simple, concise, and logical.
  • Place important, relevant information strategically to highlight it.
  • Use specific information, especially numbers.
  • Address any gaps in your chronological work history.
  • Describe any personal or professional development that came from your time away from work.
  • Include relevant contract or term positions in your resume.
  • Show that you understand the company’s needs.
  • Have a friend or family member proofread your resume.

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


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