“I worked as an account manager for XXX Brands for nearly 9 years but was laid off in January 2007 as part of a divisional reorganization. I wasn’t expecting this and had not really thought about where I would go next. So instead of jumping into something I wasn’t sure I wanted, I decided to take this opportunity to try the stay-at-home mom routine with my 2 boys. The oldest had just turned 5 and the other was about to turn 2… However now I have this 2 year gap on my resume and it appears to employers as someone that nobody wants to hire. I am getting a very poor response rate and when I do get a response it is geared towards entry-level sales.
How can I get beyond this on my resume and let employers know that this was my choice? I have an excellent track record, was a top-performer, etc. but I am not getting the chance to prove it because I get weeded out as soon as they see I have been out of work for more than 3 months. I would greatly appreciate any advice or input you might be able to provide.
Thank you again for responding.”
The above came to me via LinkedIn. To protect the privacy of the job seeker, we are going to call her Marla (I like that name).
I am sure that Marla’s situation is similar to what many of you are experiencing. Okay, listen up…you cannot hide, deny, embellish the fact that you have been out of work. Even if you were to remove dates (let’s just say), during the application screening process this will be indentified and guess what; not only will you now be the candidate who has been out of work for a couple of years but you are the candidate that tried to camouflage it. (This is not what Marla is asking but I just wanted to broach this subject because I know many of you try to hide gaps.)
The best way to overcome any flaw on a resume is to outshine it by deflecting the spotlight on to why/how you are more than qualified!
How can you do this?
- Apply a different format than the chronological order. Instead of listing Name, then Objective (please don’t use an objective) or Summary, and then your Employment — go a different route and list your Name, Summary, and Career Highlights and then Employment. Why? Because this allows you to make your case, promote yourself, convince and compel before your career chronology and your employment gap. The idea is that by the time they notice your employment gap, you have made such an impression, they are interested enough to call you.
- Do not omit dates. You can downplay your employment gaps (flaws) but don’t completely avoid it. List your dates but ensure it is not the first thing they see.
- Fill in the gap. What did you do during this time in addition to taking care of your family? Perhaps you took up a training course? Did you volunteer? Were you active in the community? If so, list it above your latest employment but don’t exaggerate (like calling yourself the CEO of your home. I know sometimes it feels like a just title but it really does not translate to the business folks). Also, if you only volunteered once, don’t list it. When listing volunteer, you must state where, how often, and the difference you made as a volunteer. In addition, being able to add a part-time job or volunteer work with dates, will help technically fill that gap so that you at least make it through the online computerized sorting and have an opportunity to reassure an actual human being that taking a chance on you is not as risky as they might think.
- Create a dynamic cover letter. This is why I am a big advocate of cover letters. Many have admitted to me, when they are on the fence regarding a candidate, they read them. That is enough for me!
Cover letters should be created in a more personal manner. This is where you would convey to your new employer that your sabbatical from work was voluntary and why you chose to do so. Then, convince them that although you have been out of work you still remember how to produce.
In Marla’s case, I would suggest you convey that you are still a sales and customer service expert; you can overcome objections and close; you can cultivate relationships and retain accounts long-term. Tell them why you are so good at it and highlight how well you have done. Face your issue of employment gaps head on in the cover letter.
“Marla,” you need to sell yourself in this cover letter and resume by highlighting benefits over features! You stay away from the negatives and you focus on the takeaway. Promise them the results they seek, substantiate it with your achievements, quantify your claims with numbers, jargon, specifics, and prioritize your points. Your resume is a selling tool and you must sell yourself above and regardless of any “flaw” or gap. There is no magic trick for getting rid of employment gaps but when a resume and cover letter is prepared strategically (PRIORITIZATION being key) your justification for employment gaps will be well received.
Hope this helps. As always if any questions firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosa Elizabeth Vargas
Master Resume Writer