How do you compensate on your résumé for a gap in employment? Naturally hiring managers want to see consistency; they want to see a professional history that does not contain gaps. Things happen though; there are personal and professional situations that sometimes come up - things that are beyond your control. So, what do you do if you have a gap on the résumé? You probably won't have the opportunity to explain it, especially if you have applied online or are submitting career documents via web-based or other anonymous means. How do you present yourself in a compelling manner even with the gap?
Use a Hybrid Résumé Style. A hybrid résumé style is particularly effective because it will allow you to bring relevant and results oriented data to the top of the document. For example, after you draft a summary and a core competency section - with effective words and phrases to help with key word search, you can create a 'Highlights of Accomplishments' section. It is in this section that you can draw upon experiences from previous roles. It will allow you to reveal notable accomplishments and the results derived to quickly engage the reader before she comes to the section of the document where professional experiences and actual dates are referenced. Given that you have a short window of time to make a compelling statement, use the highlights of accomplishments area to quickly demonstrate your skills. Capture five to six statements in bullet point fashion in this area to allow for easy reading. You also might consider making the first part of the statement in bold. This will draw the reader's eye to the section.
Use Just the Years. You don't need to reference the months on your résumé. It is ok to just list the years. If the gap is short this will help bridge it. Is this deceptive? No. You are going to fill out an application for employment where you will divulge the exact of employment. I am not suggesting that you try to mislead a potential employer. The idea is to 'get the interview'. Once there you can explain the reasons for the lapse in employment. At that time you will be able to sell yourself and demonstrate why you are right for the job.
Use the Cover. This is a perfect example of why a cover letter is important. A cover letter will allow you to explain a gap. This is not something that can be done on the résumé; but the cover letter is the ideal place to help the reader understand that you took time off to care for an elderly or ailing parent, spent time writing a book, or some other personal issue. Your explanation can be brief; the cover will enable you to quickly provide a plausible explanation.
Omit one or more Jobs. Depending upon how long you have been in the workplace you don't necessarily need to list all of your experiences, particularly if you have a lengthy work history. Jobs that extend beyond 15 years can be referenced in a previous experience section where you can reference Company name and title. Jobs beyond that time can be left off completely
Use your Network. Leveraging your network is a great way to obtain a position, especially when you have a gap. Who better to vouch for your credibility and value than people you know? A strong reputation will speak for itself, and your network can be there to help and support you during your search.
Volunteer. A great way to remain involved and connected is through volunteer activities, which can take up as much time as you let them. Use time off wisely. If you have been downsized or fired, volunteering will enable you to work with people from diverse backgrounds in a collaborative environment. Volunteer work can be highly challenging and will allow you to provide critical information during an interview.
Your commitment to yourself is a critical component to any job search. Utilize all of your tools and resources to present yourself in the best possible manner.