"What is the best way to address a gap in my resume due to a layoff or change in personal circumstance?"
You have to be honest but you don’t need to dwell on the gap. Have a short, concise explanation ready as to why there is a gap, then move on, perhaps by asking a related question. Many of us have been subject to layoffs, downsizing, etc., under circumstances for which we had little control, so gaps are increasingly common. Some organizations’ Human Resources Departments may see a gap as reason to not even consider you, and there is little recourse for that attitude.
As a recruiter, one thing that I always looked for in a candidate’s resume is the flow of training and experience that they had in their career. Normally it starts with educational training and follows with internships, entry-level assignments, etc. Since there are dates associated with each of these, it’s very easy to follow the timing of each experience. If there are gaps, I almost always inquire about them to see what challenges a candidate has had and how they handled them.
You should expect questions about these gaps and be ready to respond in a thoughtful way (and practice your responses). You should always be honest in addressing these gaps and with preparation, which leads to you being confident in your responses. Putting a positive spin around your situation is important. Making sure you address not only the gap, but the steps you took, usually shows insight into how you will handle parts of your future assignment. Remember – be confident, be prepared and always be honest.
Gaps in a resume no longer have a negative clichéd connotation. Frequent layoffs / job loss due to restructurings, financial instabilities, pandemic and changing personal situations such as needed time off for family care of adults and infants have resulted in unprecedented situations for many – young and old, shy and bold. Ways to ameliorate stress imposed by resume gaps for unpredictable periods are to:
- Be truthful and explain the situation candidly, honestly and with transparency. Keep your statements short, succinct sweet and positive. Do not dwell on negatives, do not castigate your colleagues on “whose fault it was.”
- Remain relentlessly upbeat, project an optimistic, confident, attitude
- Include experience gained during the gap: What did you do? Freelance or consult? Sabbatical to refresh or acquire new skills? Mention work as volunteer for professional societies such as ACS. List contributions with title, organization name, duty, and dates of involvement.
- Create and Innovate to show resilience and commitment to productivity and professionalism
Be direct, but don’t give out too personal of detail. Being out of work alerts the interviewer that you may have performed poorly and were fired, despite the myriad of reasons that can cause a resume gap. People often assume the worst. What you don’t want is for the other person to fill in the blank with incorrect assumptions that may be to your detriment. Be confident and head off any gap with a reason as soon as you can, giving the evaluator the most accurate picture of your work performance early on. A simple sentence works best to refocus the conversation on your performance and how you can fill the interviewer’s current needs.
In these evolving times of constant changes in the job market, taking some time off due to personal reasons or for being without a job is very common. Everyone understands this situation and as a job seeker, one should not feel uncomfortable in facing this reality. On the contrary, as a job seeker, one should be comfortable in leveraging this job gap to one’s advantage by emphasizing that the gap was a great opportunity for you to reevaluate your personal and professional priorities, and this led you to focus more on the position.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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