Strategies for downplaying an inconsistent employment history.
There are a number of circumstances that can lead to gaps in your career timeline: taking care of a loved one, raising a family, going back to school, relocating, and of course an extremely competitive market. While the dates of your employment history are hard facts that cannot be changed, and leaving dates off of your resume entirely is never a good idea, there are 3 effective strategies you can implement (or use a combination of all 3) to take the focus away from periods of unemployment and draw attention to the unique skills and abilities you have to offer.
1) Date “Tucking” Strategy
A common way career histories are displayed on a resume aligns the dates of employment to the right of the page:
If you have gaps in your employment (for example, if the above job seeker’s next position was between 2006 and 2008), aligning the dates to the right may work against you as the reader can simply skim down the side of the page and quickly assess your timeline. Instead, utilize a slightly modified format that tucks the dates in with your job title. Yes the gap is still there, but not as clearly displayed:
2) Functional Resume Format
The functional resume format emphasizes skills, qualifications, and competencies ahead of the career timeline. This strategy utilizes the prime real estate of your resume – the top half of the first page – to highlight your qualifications and summarize your achievements. Again the dates and gaps are still present, however they are pushed further down the page as an afterthought to what you have to offer:
3) Explaining the Gap
In some cases, what you have been doing during your hiatus might be relevant to your current objective and/or could be viewed positively by hiring managers. For example, if you took a year off to take care of an ailing family member, call yourself a Caregiver and your family member a Private Client, then provide details on how you effectively managed daily activities, medications, schedules, emergency situations, etc. Skills like these are transferable into a variety of roles. Incorporating student work or volunteerism (as long as you label the position as such) can cover the gap and show your involvement in the community and desire to stay active in your field:
Using any or all of these strategies won’t change history, however they can help you in overcoming the employment gap hurdle and getting you in the door for an interview.