Gaps in the resume attract HR professionals, Whether it is voluntary time off, termination and unemployment, delayed entry into the profession, or a mental illness: If you have been unemployed for a more extended period, you have to sell it in your application. Glossing over, hiding, lying – these are bad strategies. Experienced personnel decision-makers see through this. They know most of the scams. There are better methods so that gaps in the functional resume do not become a problem when looking for a job or leave room for speculation—examples of how you can professionally present the career break in your career.
What are gaps in the resume?
HR managers are trained to track down inconsistencies in the application documents. Gaps in the resume, i.e., periods of non-employment, raise questions:
- Has the employee been fired?
- Why – underperformance, fraud, theft?
- Is the applicant a somewhat inconsistent candidate?
Long gaps in the resume raise doubts about the suitability and quality of a future employee. They invite you to speculate. And that is not good. It undermines the credibility, authenticity, and meaningfulness of your resume. It is all the more important to either – sensibly – close these gaps. Or to explain it convincingly.
When do we speak of a gap?
But after two months, it needs to be explained and is critically questioned by HR staff. Gaps are longer professional breaks that you cannot fill or justify with continuous employment, vocational studies, further training, or an internship.
Rule of thumb: anything that goes beyond the period of two months and is not explained is considered a gap in the modern resume. Four weeks can be an extended vacation that lies between two jobs or between graduation and starting a career. For example, to clear your mind. A longer phase in which you reorient yourself professionally is also legitimate. This can take six to eight weeks.
Gaps in your resume are not a problem.
Which resume is perfect? However, if they are covered up, the suspicion arises: The applicant was unemployed at the time – and for a good reason. HR managers must react in this way in the interests of the company. Lots of job changes, inconsistencies, and various dropouts lead to the fear that the applicant will throw everything here again at the next opportunity. Or look for a better-paying job. Such candidates become expensive misconduct.
This is how HR managers recognize gaps in the resume.
Indication: year information instead of the month information
Usually, the professional stations in the resume are given in the form of “MM / YYYY – MM / YYYY,” where “MM” stands for the month and “YYYY” for the respective year. In this way, it can be read precisely whether the individual jobs have merged “seamlessly” into one another. This is concealed in the case of pure years. Example:
YYYY: Employment at Amazon.
YYYY: Internship at FedEx.
Correct would be:
MM / YYYY - MM / YYYY: Employment at Amazon
2nd indication: Experience profile instead of career
With this maneuver, only qualifications are listed in the chronological resume without classifying them in terms of time. Example:
- Four years of field service experience in the field of
- Three years of sales experience in retail
- Two years of training as an office clerk
HR professionals have long known all of these tricks. Accordingly, they sense an attempt at deception and ask if the applicant is invited to an interview at all. We therefore strongly advise against this type of resume cosmetics.
Closing gaps in your resume: tips and tricks
Ultimately, you only have two alternatives to deal with breaks and gaps in your resume: You fill the gaps with credible facts. Or you can be honest and come up with a convincing explanation. We’ll show you how this works below.
Courage to open gaps: explain gaps that are not.
Some loopholes are not at all and therefore arouse understanding in every reader. You can close this with a brief and plausible explanation:
Change of study
You made a mistake in your choice, of course, the subject is not suitable for you. Now orientate yourself again, but you have to wait for the next free space. Everything is not broken and can be explained by university formalities. Only if you change your subject every couple of semesters does that cast a bad light on you. If possible, use the waiting time for internships or work in a student organization. Therefore, dropping out of your studies is not a gap if you then reorient yourself and actively seek alternatives.
Wrong: study, then drop out.
Right: study Spanish, at the same time involvement in refugee aid
The corona pandemic makes it extremely difficult to find a job. Some companies have imposed hiring freezes, and others let employees work short- time or cannot assess how the labor market will develop. Getting unemployed or not immediately finding a new job during this time is not a personal failure or shame. The “Corona gap” is known and will be tolerated. Please state this clearly and clearly as the cause. As for all longer breaks, the following applies: Use the search time wisely, for example, by taking an online course that will help you advance professionally.
Wrong: looking for a job.
Right: downsizing due to the corona pandemic
Even if starting a job takes longer than planned, very few HR managers take offense. You are picky about your first job – but please never idle!
Right: Further training to become a specialist in education
Anyone who is ill for a long time or has to care for a seriously ill family member does not need to camouflage or gloss over it. You don’t even have to name the disease itself (for example, cancer) – it’s a private matter! It is sufficient if you limit the period and write down what happened, for example, “time off for health reasons.” You can underline your motivation by the fact that you are now fully operational again.
Wrong: time off due to illness.
Right: time out for health reasons, meanwhile complete recovery and readiness for action
Temporary unemployment in the past does not have to be concealed either. After all, you found a job again afterward. Such phases occur. But then please also describe what you have done during this time to find a new job. This proves not only commitment but also determination.
Explain real gaps in your resume
Some loopholes cannot be easily explained. They contain their weaknesses and mistakes. Nobody is perfect, of course. But how can such gaps in the resume be sold?
The gap in resume due to termination
You have been fired, lost your job, and have been looking for a new job for several months. Vain. In that case, it is essential first to distinguish why you were terminated:
Through no fault of its own
Has your department been shut down, for example, due to a company merger, restructuring, or corporate crisis? Did the company cut jobs on a large scale, for instance, because it got into financial difficulties? Has your ex-employer even gone bankrupt? If you are lucky: In this case, you can mention your dismissal with your head held high and possibly even enclose a press release with your application. In the resume, the phrase: “Head of the department at Lehman Brothers, termination due to insolvency” is sufficient. After all, it wasn’t your fault that you lost your job.
Whether out of antipathy, stupidity, or poor performance does not matter: You were fired because of your failure. Point. A basic resume is limited to the facts. Even the most convoluted affirmation or justification only proves: You have a guilty conscience (probably even rightly). Then stick to the facts. In the latter case, you can limit the damage – with the following tips:
Do not mention the termination, anything more. Beware of explanations or attempts at justification. They have no place in the resume and always have a negative effect. Especially when you try to blame a lousy boss, bullying colleagues, or general antipathy, even if it’s true – don’t say a word about it. You can only lose and look like a whimper who doesn’t want to take responsibility. Your employment relationship ended then and then.
Today, there is a chronological resume structure based on the current position. You should choose an order such that your previous (good) performance is displayed first, and the question of discontinuing ASAP is displayed on the second page.
Persistent unemployment gap
In this case, you need to get creative. But even more actively counteract the suspicion that you are lazy on the couch at home and hope that a suitable job will open up. That is why you must pursue a two-pronged approach: You continue to apply for jobs, but you also receive further training – through qualifying. Trips, language courses, advanced training, internships. In this way, the gaps have no chance of becoming such according to the above definition. For the resume, this means specifically:
Choice of words
If your unemployment is still relevant, please do not describe yourself as “unemployed,” but rather as “looking for work” – that sounds more active. It is even better if you turn your dilemma into a positive one, for example: “Professional reorientation, goal: positioning in the area of sales management.” That appears more self-confident, more committed, and shows your goal orientation.
Mention all qualifying measures on your part: a kind of self-study in which you have taught yourself blogging as well as HTML and social media marketing; social commitment to refine your knowledge of human nature for sales; Internships (even unpaid ones) that have helped you sharpen your professional reorientation and become more aware of your core competencies and passions. In particular, further training on your initiative is worthwhile. They increase the prospect of a raise.
Gaps are rarely an exclusion criterion.
It is clear to every HR manager that the job search can sometimes not work. In that case, he or she wants to see how committed, and courageous you are in countering the situation. Any gaps in the resume are rarely an exclusion criterion.
You must play with open cards and provide reasonable explanations. Most specialists and managers today have one or the other break in their vita. OK then! Such detours signal: the person had courage, does not shy away from changes, was able to gain experience, and is also not afraid of failure.
Gaps are OK, and lies are not.
To put it plainly: Of all the variants that are supposed to spruce up breaks in the resume, lying is the worst choice. The shot almost always backfires: Anyone who invents activities or further training for this purpose and is then asked about it in the job interview not only finds himself in need of explanation but loses his reputation for good. Incorrect information in the resume is a reason for termination – without notice, even afterward. In the job interview, they mean the immediate end.
The “makeup” of parts of life is also a bad disguise. Seriously: how stupid do you think the reader of your application is? And if you assume an IQ of toasted bread for him to believe: Why do you want to work for such a company?