Work Gaps – Can You Really Hide Them?

 In Career Tips, Job Search Strategy, Resumes and Cover Letters

Mind-the-Gap1Work gaps continue to be job seekers’ biggest worry.  It’s little wonder; we still carry a certain amount of stigma associated with a gap – never mind what it might do to the bank account.  I am continuously asked, “How do I lay out my resume to minimize the effect of a gap?”   Sure, you can do a few things, but really, I think most work gaps look worse to the owner than they do to everyone else.

I’d like to look at work gaps and also try to adjust your attitude.

What’s the problem with a work gap?

A gap may signify that we have a hidden issue that causes us to be undesirable to hire.  We all know the type of person who no one misses when they leave.  They may have a funky personality, are difficult to work with or have a host of other undesirable work traits.  It might be glaringly obvious to others, but not to ourselves.

A work gap could mean you’re just plain lazy.  Too lazy to get a job and therefore too lazy to consider for hire.

It could be hiding a deep dark secret, like being in jail; and no one wants that!

How do you combat those perceptions?

First, if there ever were a time for a work gap, it’s right now.  With so many people out of work and for so long, it’s well understood why you might have a gap.

To combat the possible negative perceptions, make sure you use your time to demonstrate you are anything but lazy or undesirable.  You can do things like volunteer doing work in your area of expertise.  It will make you feel good and also give you content to add to your resume.  You can use this time to beef up your skills by taking classes; and add that information to your resume.

You combat those perceptions by demonstrating that you aren’t just sitting around drawing an unemployment check and watching soap operas.

The best way to combat the perception is by not perpetuating it.

How do you minimize it in your resume and interview?

You could consider a functional resume format which allows you to lay out your work by experience rather than lay out your work by date.  The world knows this subtle trick, but it can help.

If you have done some of the things I mention above, you have put the volunteer work or education on your resume, which means you have little or no gap showing on your resume.

In the interview, if you are asked about a gap, you do nothing to hide the fact or be embarrassed by it.  If you do, it will cause people to mistrust you.  You can say something as simple as:  I was not doing paid employment during that time, but as my resume points out, I worked for x non-profit and also went to school to learn XX.  Wear it proudly and be straight forward about it.

My philosophy on work gaps is that you shouldn’t be ashamed of them, but you should absolutely pursue activities that will show that you were the productive, focused person you are.

For more career tips and advice – FREE newsletter and eworkbook:  From Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – Your Career Change Agent from and

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