Overcoming Long-term Employment Gaps

Spent a prolonged time out of the work force? The reasons can range from voluntary – like taking time off to be a stay-at-home parent or travel – to involuntary – such as dealing with a medical emergency or being laid off. While it may seem undesirable, your gap in employment doesn’t mean you’re unhirable. Here are three ways you can close the gap.

On paper

You can do a bit of visual trickery to your CV/resume to downplay gaps in employment. Enter the years you were employed, rather than using the standard month/year format. You can also use a smaller font size and not bold your employment dates. Some candidates with extended unemployment find that structuring their resumes functionally, rather than chronologically, help with filling in holes. By focusing on accomplishments and skills, rather than the amount of time spent at a job, they’re able to highlight attributes that attract hiring managers. It’s also perfectly acceptable to only focus on the past 10-15 years and omit any unrelated work experience.

Online

Leverage social media as much as you can. The more bait you put out there, the better your chances of reeling in an interview. LinkedIn is great because it’s essentially another outlet for your CV/resume – and recruiters often use it to fish for talent. LinkedIn does use a chronological, month/date format to showcase work experience, which doesn’t help with long unemployment gaps. But, you can plug up holes by explaining what you did during that time. If you were a homemaker, say it. If you volunteered, write that down. There are marketable skills, such as budgeting, management and teamwork, that are applicable for many jobs.

In person

Chances are, you probably won’t be asked about an unemployment gap that’s under six months. If you are asked about your unemployment gap at the interview, don’t skirt around the issue. Just be natural, direct and brief in your response. Then, swiftly move on to the next topic of conversation.

Need some reassurance that a gap in employment will result in automatic rejection? James Caan, a successful entrepreneur and business thought leader recently said, “I am always more interested in the abilities and characteristics of an individual — if they haven’t been in work for a while but have the quality my company needs, I will hire them.”

Were you out of work for a while? Do you have any tips to share about getting back to work? We’d love to hear from you.